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Pastoralists turn to farming due to severe drought

02 February 2015, 08:19

Garissa - Abdi Ahmed, a pastoralist from Garissa County, says he had no reason to smile in his entire life.

According to him, the perennial drought, which is the order of day in the region, and which on several occasions has led to him loosing hundreds of his livestock, the only source of livelihood, has forced him to re-think of pastoralism.

In an interview with Xinhua in his remote village in Balambala sub-county, 300 km from Garissa town, 65-years-old Ahmed says he has lost hope with keeping livestock after loosing several of them through drought.

The elderly man, who has 15 children, says life has become extremely difficult for him and his family since the only source of income he had was livestock. It's by selling his livestock that he was able to meet the basic needs for his family.

"But now look from a millionaire a few years ago, I have now been turned into a destitute with completely nothing. I am now forced to rely on handouts from relatives and well wishers to give me something to feed my big family because I don't have a single livestock that I have been left with," he said on Friday.

Ahmed says his children, five of them who are in secondary school, have been forced to drop out of school for lack of school fees.

The story is the same for Ibrahim Elmoge from Mandera County. He too has lost all his animals through drought and now says he doesn't know what the future holds for him.

Elmoge, who is married with two wives and twenty children, says that he has now been left with less than thirsty goats.

He says before the drought set in, he had a 100 camels, 90 cows and 150 goats. But he has since been forced to sell them at a throw-away price for fear of loosing them all through drought.

Also read: Pastoralists turn to crop farming, after livestock deaths

"The biter truth is now downing in our heads that pastoralism is not sustainable at all in this age and era where drought has become a global problem," he says.

And for the thousands of local residents in northern Kenya who largely rely on pastoralism for survival, they face the same predicament.

It is not rate to see the locals appealing for help from the government and other NGOs when the wrath of mother nature comes calling. It is for this reason that the residents have now started embracing farming to compliment it with livestock keeping.

"I completely don't want anything to do with livestock keeping at all, because I have come to realize that it is not comically viable. Unlike farming which is sustainable and much more reliable, " Ahmed says.

The government has also for the first time announced plans to start irrigation farming in the arid region.

Speaking recently in Garissa County near the border with Somalia, agriculture cabinet secretary Felix Koskei said plans were underway to make sure that irrigation farming is practiced in northern counties of Mandera, Wajir and Garissa, adding that the government will use 22 million U.S. dollars to start the projects.

He said Kenya will also partner with Egypt and Ethiopia who have succeeded in utilizing their land areas to do irrigation farming and secure their countries to be food secure.

"Northeastern has a great potential to be the country's food basket if we get our priorities right. We have to go the irrigation way like Israel because drought a perennial problem in this region," said Koskei.

The CS said that part of the problem the region has suffered was as a result of over relying on livestock farming, which are normally swept away by drought hence rendering them destitute. He challenged the residents to embrace mixed farming, which includes keeping livestock and farming.

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- Xinhua


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