Kenya

Hapless herdsmen staring at bleak future as drought decimates their livestock

By Peter Abwao, Communications Manager Kenya red Cross Society

During the good times Ngao Chome from Msamviani Village, Kwale County did not think much about his goats. The browsers were easy to tend as shrubs were plenty and water was not far off for them to drink either. Whenever he needed to make some money to take care of other needs, traders from as far as Mombasa would come right to his door step and pay him handsomely for a goat or two. Not anymore!

Ngao is one of the victims of what the World Food Programme (WFP) has termed ‘the driest conditions recorded[1] in the region in over 40 years. Three rain seasons stretching back to late 2020 have come and gone and Ngao and other herdsmen in Kwale County haven’t seen their fortunes improve. As a consequence, Ngao has lost 60 of his 100 goats. He knows it is a matter of time before he loses everything.

Ngao is one of the herdsmen who turned up to take advantage of an animal offtake programme implemented by the Kenya Red Cross (KRCS) with funding from the Danish Red Cross Society. Under the programme, KRCS is buying shoats (goats and sheep) from distressed farmers to cushion them from losses. The shoats are then slaughtered and the meat distributed as food to needy households.

“When I heard of this programme, I said I must sell my remaining goats to at least get some money,” Ngao explained.

Ngao brought 10 goats but only 4 were selected with the rest declared inappropriate due to low weights.

“I am happy to have sold four of my goats. I know the rest may die if the rains do not come soon,’” He said.

Amos Nyiyo is another herdsman who participated in the offtake programme to cut his losses.
Amos, in his early 20s, dropped out of school and got into herding goats which is what many young people do in his area because it is an avenue to make some good income. Now he wants to find something else to do.

“I want to sell these goats and either start a business or go to train as a mason. Herding goats is no longer sustainable in this drought,” Amos said.

He had 13 goats and lost five at the height of the drought in 2021.

“Some rains came towards the end of December and we thought we could save the remaining goats but they were too little and we are back to the drought again.” He explained.

He was lucky the offtake team selected five (5) of his remaining eight goats. At the best of times his goats would earn him as high as KES 6,000 each and he would be nearly KES 30,000 richer by the end of the day.

“I don’t mind the KES 4000 they are offering. After all I do not have any feeds for the goats I keep. Besides, if the brokers come, they will offer me as little as KES1000 for each goat” He said.

The horn of Africa region is currently experiencing one of the longest droughts in recent history. The World Food Programme has estimated that at least 13 million people in Kenya,
Somalia and Ethiopia are in need of urgent food assistance. In Kenya nearly 2.8 million in 23, mostly Arid and Semi-Arid counties, are affected.

The Kenya Red Cross Society sounded an alarm over the drought in April 2021 and made an international appeal for support through the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Society, with resources provided by various partners locally and internationally, has continued to provide assistance including food distribution, rehabilitation of water infrastructure, cash and voucher assistance, and supporting provision of health services.

“Currently we have reached households with help including food, water and through cash transfer. Unfortunately, a lot more must be done and we are calling on partners to urgently come to the aid of the suffering communities” Dr Asha Mohammed the Kenya Red Cross Society, Secretary General said.

Under the Danish Red Cross funded intervention in Kwale, over 2,000 households will be supported. The programme includes a cash assistance to 1000 households who will receive two transfers of KES 5467 each over two months through mobile money transfer. Another 1000 households will receive meat.

This support offers a two-month reprieve for the 2,000 beneficiaries but with forecasts projecting another below average performance for the March-April-May rain season, they cannot see where their silver lining will emerge from.