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DROUGHT

We need long-term solutions to famine

In Summary

• Diversifying pastoralists’ sources of wealth will go a long way in cushioning them against drought

• We’re almost sure parts of our country will be hit by drought this same time every year

Hunger-stricken residents of Kangirisai wait for relief food
DESPERATE: Hunger-stricken residents of Kangirisai wait for relief food
Image: Hesborn Etyang

Food crisis has become a predominant problem in Kenya. It is experienced almost every year with mild to severe cases. We are almost sure that a section of our country will be hit by drought and famine within the same time every year.

Climate change and climate variability are some of the significant famine agents that result in the food crises. Communities living in arid and semi-arid areas, who happen to be mostly pastoralists, are the primary victims of food insecurity.

We cannot deny that the effects of climate change are worsening. The only way tackle to them is to come up with viable adaptive and coping strategies that will in the long run end food insecurity.

Essentially, they may not be meticulous interventions but feasible and simple mechanisms that have long-term results.

The food crisis in Turkana and Baringo, among other counties, point to a lack of preparedness and inadequate response. It is evident that the people from the two counties, for instance, rely heavily on a single source of livelihood—pastoralism—yet they are endowed with natural resources that have not been fully exploited.

Animals, just like humans, cannot withstand the harsh conditions resulting from climate change—lack of water, fodder, erratic rainfall patterns and high atmospheric temperatures.

One of the strategies is to convince the residents to reduce the number of livestock they keep per household and go for improved breeds. Having large herds of livestock is a source of wealth, but during droughts, it becomes a challenge to cater to their needs. Consequently, the animals become emaciated and lose value. In extreme conditions, they die.

Irrigation has proven to be a viable and reliable method of agriculture dating back to the Neolithic revolution.

Diversifying their sources of wealth will go a long way in ensuring that when one source cannot support their daily needs, they have another source. 

Supporting existing irrigation schemes and establishing new ones will promote crop farming, something that majority of the pastoralists are not exploring. Perkerra irrigation scheme in Baringo is producing food that serves a large population, particularly outside the county. Why not establish new mechanisms and channel water to Tiaty, Baringo East, which is one of the places experiencing the food crisis?

Irrigation has proven to be a viable and reliable method of agriculture dating back to the Neolithic revolution. Egypt, which is mainly dry, relies heavily on irrigation for its agricultural production.

Introduction of drought resistant and fast-maturing crops is also an excellent strategy to end the food crisis. With many international research institutions in the country, it is possible to experiment on different soil types and climatic conditions and guide the government and residents on which crops to plant, where and what time.

Food storage points are crucial as well. By this I mean processing and storing meat—it is possible to preserve or package meat from pastoralists' animals for consumption after a certain period. Traditionally, meat was dried and preserved using salt and smoke for consumption during famine and drought.

The processing plant can be a good avenue for the pastoralists to reduce the number of livestock they keep. If well managed, the plant can be a source of revenue to the country as well as creating employment.

More importantly, people need to change their daily socioeconomic behaviours, including cultural dynamics in order to survive in the event of such a turmoil.  

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