Seeds and fertiliser for Kenya drought relief operation

The Red Cross has scaled up its drought relief programme to include the distribution of supplementary food, seeds and fertiliser in Kenya's Machakos District, where it has been providing monthly food rations since July to 125,500 people.
Three successive years of poor rainfall in parts of Kenya have resulted in severe food shortages, leading to population movements, and rising malnutrition among young children. The World Food Programme estimates that 1.7 million Kenyans are in need of food assistance

  • placing Kenya second only to Ethiopia on the list of worst-affected countries in the Horn of Africa.

To complement the ongoing Kenya Red Cross food distributions - which are supported by the International Federation - the American and German Red Cross Societies have joined in the relief effort. The German Red Cross is providing vitamin-enriched cereal supplements to 8,330 children under the age of five in a bid to alleviate malnutrition. "Each child will get 9 kilos of cereal each month to help them through this crisis period," says Bernd Baucks, German Red Cross Regional Liaison Delegate. A nutritional survey is being carried out to investigate possible further needs in Machakos district.

The American Red Cross has completed a distribution of mixed seeds and fertilisers to 25,100 families - those who have been identified as particularly vulnerable and who are on the beneficiary list for Red Cross food relief in Machakos district. The families each received seeds fordrought-resistant cow-peas, sorghum, quick-maturing pigeon-peas and maize as well as sufficient fertiliser for a three-acre plot.

''This distribution represents a realistic attempt to return these people to a state of self-sufficiency," says Dan Holmberg, American Red Cross Relief and Logistics Delegate. "Having used up all their resources, many people cannot afford to buy seeds, so would be unable to cope once the food distributions end."

Seventy-year-old King'oo Bongi, a farmer living in the small village of Kalambeu about two hours' drive from Nairobi, has received food relief in previous years, but has never been given seeds and fertiliser before. After three consecutive years without any harvest, he sold all his livestock to buy food. ''Before the Red Cross moved in to help, my condition was deteriorating; some days I went without any food and I became weak. But now I not only have something to eat but also seed to plant,'' he says.

With the arrival of the short rains, Bongi is optimistic. Having prepared his land, he is looking forward to a good harvest in February.