Veterinary care helps pastoralists cope with drought

Pastoralist communities in Kenya’s arid lands depend on their livestock and their donkeys for income. Basic veterinary care is one of the best ways to protect their animals and pastoralist livelihoods in these areas.

This is especially vital during the drought because weakened animals are at major risk from contagious diseases. But in remote areas such as Mandera in north eastern Kenya, pastoralists are unlikely to have access to veterinary services.

That’s why Practical Action vet Dr Golicha and animal health assistant Abdi Hamid, with funding from animal welfare charity The Brooke,  have been training and mentoring 110 community-based animal health workers (CBAHWs) in the area in an effort to bridge this gap.

Dr Golicha from Practical Action (right) with some of the community based animal health workers

What are CBAHWs?

CBAHWs are predominantly herders themselves from pastoral areas who live and move with their animals in search of water and pasture.

I spoke to some of them at a watering point near Mandera town where pastoralists bring their livestock to drink and load their donkeys up with water to transport back home.



CBAHW Adan Ibrahim told me that they provide animal healthcare services to members of their communities. They diagnose and treat common diseases and play a major role in disease reporting, surveillance and community mobilisation. They contact Dr Golicha and Abdi Hamid if there’s anything that comes up which they are unable to treat.

I watched the team treat donkeys for worms and give them vitamin supplements aimed at reducing opportunistic diseases and infections associated with drought.

“My donkey is vital because it carries water from this shallow well 16 kilometres back home.”

Pastoralist Adan Abdirahiman with his donkey

Pastoralist Adan Abdirahiman said many of their livestock have died and donkeys are their only hope of earning money – through collecting and selling firewood and water:

“My donkey is vital because it carries water from this shallow well 16 kilometres back home. We are grateful for the help that Practical Action and The Brooke have given us – drugs for our donkeys and animal welfare advice to ensure we’re not overloading them – this is especially important during this drought when they have to carry water over longer distances and are more likely to suffer from health problems.”


8 responses to “Veterinary care helps pastoralists cope with drought”

  1. Emmanuel Ndulet Says:

    Dr.Golicha i respect your effort and constractive ideas for the project your undertaking but build them also on traditional medicine currently most of pastoralist encouraged tradition medicine for treating their livestock talk with them they will be resourcefull. my question relly around the area of animal traction which is more convinient between camel and donkey?

  2. Golicha Says:

    Hello Emmanuel I welcome your observation. I know most of the pastoralists do prefer traditional medicine,however modern drugs have infiltrated into even remotest of the villages and the people knows that this drugs are effective and don’t mind its use. As for animal traction donkeys are more convenient once well trained. Camels are very expensive and requires somewhere to browse and in this part of the world this isn’t possible while with donkey’s such problem are rare.

  3. Ibrahim Says:

    i dont see what reallt P.A is doing in mandera, neither has it helped the drought tha has ravaged the residents of mandera, give us a break please, just like other developement agencies either be helpful or vacat!

  4. Ibrahim Says:

    getting donor funds in the name of donkeys, get involved in development issues!

  5. Ibrahim Says:

    infrustructure developments like market stall, livestock markets is what the county needs!

  6. Gemma Hume Says:

    Ibrahim, thank you for your comments. In response to the first part of your first comment: you said you don’t see what Practical Action is doing in Mandera.
    Practical Action has participated in the development agenda for the county in many ways in collaboration with the government and many other stakeholders. We have had interventions in peace building and conflict management, helped during emergencies and facilitated development of infrastructure in different sectors. Among our many notable achievements include construction and equipping of boarding facilities, construction of masonry water tanks and construction of kitchen in both Elwak Girls Pimary and Khadija Girls Primary in Mandera East. We also rehabilitated Shimbir Fatuma Health centre and also equipped it with solar lighting system and constructed a water masonry tank.
    Currently, we are running two projects: 1) A project aimed at building the capacity of pastoralists in Mandera and Turkana to participate in planning processes for development and 2) a project linking livelihoods of the poor to donkey welfare.

  7. Gemma Hume Says:

    In response to your statement that Practical Action has not helped the drought:
    We are not a relief agency but we decided to respond to save lives and livelihoods when the drought situation became so bad and the response from many relief actors including the government was inadequate to deal with the disaster.
    We have run a programme targeting small stocks and working animals, which many pastoralists depend on for their livelihoods.
    At least 50,000 sheep and goats and 5,000 donkeys have received supplementary feeding, 36,000 benefited from improved access to veterinary treatments, including dewormers, and vitamin supplements aimed at reducing opportunistic diseases and infections associated with drought.
    80,000 sheep and goats were also vaccinated against goat/sheep pox and Contagious Caprine Pleural Pneumonia (CCPP).
    Community based animal healthcare workers have been involved in training workshops to improve their knowledge of early warning signs of the effects of drought on donkeys and response actions to drought, as well as undergoing refresher training on emergency veterinary services in ten of the worst affected areas.
    Crucially, water was also trucked to five water stressed villages and 9,000 litres of diesel fuel provided to seven strategic motorized boreholes. This has ensured villagers and their livestock including donkeys have greater access to water in the area.
    We also hosted 14 local and international journalists for two days in Mandera with the sole aim of highlighting the plight of the poor livestock owners and their livestock who seemed to have been forgotten both nationally and internationally during the drought.
    The media both in the UK and Kenya gave a lot of coverage on the matter as a result of the visit. As a result of the media drive, livestock catapulted back on the agenda and one of the notable impacts was the announcement by the British Government that it will provide an additional sterling pounds 4 million to save 200,000 livestock in the horn of Africa.
    We also responded to the serious drought emergency from February to April 2006 – providing emergency feed to 2,000 livestock and help 5,000 families to maintain small nucleus herds to support livelihood recovery in Elwak Sub-District of Mandera district ended up feeding 18,747 livestock, with 98% survival rate for those put on feeds and concentrate. The project was deeply appreciated and the beneficiary pastoralists remain thankful to our supporters and Practical Action to date.

  8. Gemma Hume Says:

    Ibrahim, I understand from your comments that you seem to have a problem with the intervention on livelihoods and donkey welfare because you do not see it as development or perhaps you think that promoting the welfare of working animals is a bad thing?
    You should know that 19% of the one million inhabitants of Mandera County rely solely for their livelihoods on the working animal (the donkey).
    These animals are used for transport either as cart drawers or as pack animals. Very many poor people rely on its back for sustenance. If donkeys are injured, they will not be able to transport water or other items that their owners need to sell to earn a living, and they fall deeper into poverty.
    Our project is the only one of its kind in the entire northeastern region of Kenya which targets these poor animals and their owners by providing animals health services, training the owners, users and service providers on good/acceptable welfare practices and trying to change knowledge and attitudes of the whole community when it comes to the welfare of working animals.
    We have influenced the Mandera town council to enact a by-law on the welfare of donkeys in Mandera and this high level policy influencing work can only succeed where community and leaders have seen the need and benefits of doing the same.

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