As droughts worsen, joined-up adaptations build resilience in arid Kenya
22 September 2015, 21:35
Yamicha - Gusts of wind
blow the dust coming from thousands of animals as they make their way to Urura
borehole in Kenya’s arid northern Merti ward.
The well is set in a grazing area reserved for use only
during severe drought periods. This dry month, about 3,000 cows, 12,000 goats
and 1,800 donkeys access the strategic water reserve every day.
Abdi Matoiye from Biligi village and his 100 cows have walked
for about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to get here – and it’s not just the water
that is the attraction.
Matoiye recently lost a cow after it was bitten by wild dogs
infected with rabies. Now he is worried that the calf is showing signs of the
disease too. Fortunately, a veterinarian is available to answer this distress
"A cow gets infected by sniffing bites from the bitten
cow,” Matoiye believes. “We are worried that more cows might die since we are
sharing the grazing area and the borehole.”
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Northern Kenya, an arid region inhabited by nomadic
pastoralists, is increasingly prone to droughts, a problem that has depleted
livestock, water and pasture. Migration during drought periods exposes animals
to diseases as they converge on remaining grazing land and watering points.
And pasture and water scarcity continue to be a key driving
force for conflict between communities as livestock and people move around the
counties of Marsabit, Moyale, Garissa, Isiolo and Wajir, locals say.
But a two-year effort to bring together a range of
adaptations to the worsening drought – including new wells and other water
sources, carefully managed grazing reserves and better veterinary care – is
helping pastoralists such as Matoiye manage drought better and protect their
animals, incomes and families.
Often such combinations of adaptation efforts – rather than
simply one change alone – are the key to building real resilience to worsening
climate extremes, experts say. Letting community members decide what needs to
change also is important, they say.
The Isiolo adaptation pilot project, backed with $1 million
from the U.K. Department for International Development through the London-based
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), encouraged
community members to identify investments that would build their resilience to
climate change and then financed these projects.
Now, “we have white (wet-season), dry (after the rains) and
drought grazing areas in Isiolo”, explained Ndiba Ngolicha, the chairman of the
local range land user association. “It has only rained for two days within the
year but we have not lost a single cow to drought or lack of pasture. Our
biggest challenge remains livestock diseases,” he said.
WOMEN AND WATER
Matioye is just one of many people benefiting from the
Nangisan Lesiyampe, a widow from Nantundu village, used to
have to walk for 30 kilometers (18 miles) each day, trying to avoid wild
animals, to fetch water at Ewaso Ng’iro, the closest flowing river. Today a
smiling Lesiyamp walks only a kilometer and a half to a Nantundu water pan,
which has cleaner water.
"Every woman carried a 20-liter jerry can on her back
and 5 liters in both hands every day,” Lesiyamp remembered about her former
trek, while old people and bigger girls were left to watch the children and
gather fodder for the animals.
With just 30 liters of water available a day for both people
and animals, hard choices had to be made, she said.
"Goats were the priority, otherwise you had no milk
production that day. You had to make a choice every day between food and
cleanliness” Lesiyampe said.
One major aim of the drought adaptation effort is to cut the
spread of animal diseases as pastoralists move long distances with their herds
in search of grazing and water, through both prevention and fast identification
of disease outbreaks.
According to the Joseph Nduati, the Isiolo county director
of veterinary services, when large numbers of animals gather at a few wells and
pasture areas, the spread of highly contagious and often deadly viral diseases
such as rinderpest, or goat plague, and CCP (contagious caprine
pleuropneumonia) can lead to large-scale deaths.
In July, his team spent two weeks vaccinating and deworming
animals at Urura borehold – an exercise repeated across all the new grazing
Also, a nearby laboratory in Kinna ward is working to
diagnose diseases quickly. “Previously the pastoralist had to wait over two
weeks to get results as we had to rely on laboratories from Nairobi and
Karatina” more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) away, Nduati said. That led to
“high deaths,” he said.
Lordman Lekankuli, the Isiolo County drought coordinator and
county adaptation committee chairman, said the adaptation project started with
Isiolo community members being trained on management strategies, proposal
writing and finance management, under the National Drought Management
Funds then went to help build a new veterinary laboratory at
Kinna, drill a new water well and build or rehabilitate 11 water-trapping sand
dams, six water pans and a rock catchment area. Another three small veterinary
laboratories are scheduled to be built in the area by December.
The herders say life is now much better.
"Two days is the longest it takes now to know what is
ailing your cow, we have pasture, the water is available despite the distance
and the veterinary officer is near,” said Matoiye, who said that now he is “not
worried about my family.”
Lesiyampe, similarly, says better access to water has made
life much easier.
"With the water a kilometer and a half away, women have
time to do other daily chores. Hygiene at home is a priority now. Animals
produce more milk, their weight is better (which helps) fetching good money on
the market. And food is not a problem anymore” she said.