Africa / Drought / Drylands / DRYLANDSCRP / East Africa / ILRI / Kenya / Pastoralism

Droughts hitting Kenya more frequently–ILRI’s Andrew Mude

The drylands of Marsabit District, in northern Kenya

The drylands of Marsabit District, in northern Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Mude).

‘With drought striking Kenya every two years, survival becomes an ever more violent occupation.

‘Qampa Re Liban (61), kicks the red soil, hurling up a cloud of dust with the rubber plimsoll on his right foot.

‘“No rain,” he says, leaning on an Ulle (stick) and grinding some meera leaves through his teeth.

‘“I’ve lost 47 cows over the past 10 years. Now I only have three left. There just isn’t enough pasture. There is no rain left in Moyale.”

‘In the past decade, five droughts have plagued northern Kenya. Cattle have died, intercommunal violence over scarce resources has increased, and tribes have begun sending scouts over the border into Ethiopia to find alternative grazing areas.

‘Experts say it is hard to tell whether this series of dry spells is part of a trend. “But it is clear there has been an above-average frequency of them,” says Andrew Mude, an economist with the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi. Normally, the short rainy season goes from October to December. But this year, just two days of rain have fallen on Moyale.

‘“We got very used to getting droughts every eight to 10 years,” says Anne O’Mahony, country director with Concern. “Then they went down to five, but now it is almost every second year. It’s giving people no chance to recover.” For example, cattle herds have shrunk dramatically in size, making it more difficult for pastoralists to restock even when the rains do fall. . . .’

Read the whole article in The Irish Times: ‘When you see food and are hungry, you will not fear to die’, 4 December 2010.

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