Kenya: ensuring food security in chronic drought

SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has been working in Kenya since 2006. For 2 years now, with the support of UK Aid and the European Union (EuropeAid), we have been developing capacities for the people to be resilient in order to face drought. We met with three pastoralists in Marsabit County (in northern Kenya) who have participated in our programs.

Lucy: “We meet up every Saturday to work the land”

Lucy has 8 children. Her main livelihood is livestock, the only way she can feed her kids. “Because of the drought we face almost every year, the pastures are getting more and more limited, my goats are starving and die of thirst. Then, I lose money and it gets harder to feed my family.” Lucy joined the Gatab agricultural group, which uses a communal plot to test the introduction of a new seed: cowpeas. “We were reluctant to plant an unknown crop. We were even unsure if we could eat it.” SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL provided the seeds and training for the agricultural group. “We meet every Saturday to work the fields and every Sunday to discuss any business related to the cowpeas.”

This initiative takes into account integral resilience components: enhanced access to food, increased preparedness to future crises, increased knowledge and newly acquired skills to strengthen links among the community. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL will not provide more seeds, as the group will duplicate the current ones, thereby strengthening their resilience. The group is already predicting expansion: “Our ambition is to duplicate the seeds and sell them in a market.”

Joseph: “Gathering our efforts has decreased tensions between communities. Who would have ever thought that?”

Joseph is also a farmer and the father of 4 children. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL set up pastoral field schools to empower communities to acquire knowledge and skills and make informed decisions on matters affecting their livelihoods. Before that, pastoralists would independently try to vaccinate their livestock, but diseases would spread fast. “By the time we knew what disease it was, many goats and cows would already be affected by it. There was no system in place where the community could control disease outbreaks. Inexplicable livestock deaths seriously harmed our entire livelihood.” Recurring drought poses another threat to their livestock, as well as intercommunity conflict in major pasture areas.

But now, thanks to the schools, everything has changed. “The community collectively controls disease outbreaks and vaccinates and deworms livestock with the help of local authorities. We mobilise our community and manage livestock together to effectively address prevalent health hazards” said Joseph. "The community strengthens its resilience by building trust with one another. Our united effort has even prevented tension between communities. Who would have ever thought that!?”

Ibraj: “I was trained, such as my fellows’ shepherds, on the production of Multi-Urea Blocks (MUB)”

Ibraj is very quick to introduce his family. “I have five children, two who tend to the goats and one who goes to school. The other two are still young,” he says, smiling at his wife. Ibraj is part of a group of pastoralists who have witnessed poor rains and reduced pasture for their livestock. “We had to travel far for the sake of the goats. We could walk and walk without knowing when we would be turning back to go home.”

“I was trained on the production of Multi-Urea Blocks (MUB), along with other pastoralist from my village.” MUBs provide sufficient nutrients for livestock, using locally grown produce. MUB groups are trained by SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL in production techniques, business management and marketing. In other words, Ibraj will go from seeking pasture in far places to owning blocks for pasture which will be sold to other pastoralists. This type of livelihood diversification is the key for strengthening resilience in the event of climate-related risks.

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to send all my children to school.”