Tharaka District: Drought Monthly Bulletin, August 2006


Situation Overview

All the livelihood zones experienced sunny weather throughout the month, with cloudy mornings in rain fed and marginal mixed farming livelihood zones.

In the entire district, permanent water sources were utilized for both livestock and domestic purposes. Distances to the water points increased in the month.

Pasture and browse quality and quantity deteriorated in the entire district in the month prompting cattle movements across and within the divisions, in search of pasture. This was mainly in the marginal mixed farming livelihood zones along the River Tana belt.

The predominant agricultural activity was harvesting of the pigeon peas (in mixed farming and rain fed cropping LH zones) and bush clearing in preparation for the October-December short rains.

Livestock marketing improved with a rise in sale volumes, however priced reduced slightly.

Livestock sales increased in the month, but at relatively lower prices compared to last month.

Livestock body condition remained stable for all species but on the downward trend for cattle. Livestock health also remained stable except for a few confirmed cases of CCPP in Kamanyaki location and Heart Water disease in Shoats in Kanjoro and Kamanyaki locations.

Nutritional status in all the zones are within normal range but on the downward trend due to poor feeding habits and reduced milk production.

High rate of food stocks depletion through sale and household consumption marginal mixed farming zones.

Recommendations to district authorities /DSG and National KFSSG

WFP should provide relief seed before the onset of the short rains (October) to enable farmers plant early as rains have been quiet erratic in the past.

Goats' vaccination against CCPP should be done in Kamanyaki where it has been confirmed to avoid quarantine.

FFW should be provided as from Sept 06-Feb07 to reduce dependency and as a phase out strategy if the short rains season performs.

Current interventions

Relief food aid interventions i.e general distribution and FFW by various actors are on going.

Previous DSG meeting and their recommendations.

In the recent meeting to discuss the Long Rains Assessment , the DSG recommended that:

Monitoring to be done on onset, quality and quantity of next rain season.

Livestock selling trends and prices.

Timeliness in supply of food for the regular school feeding program and school attendance.

Co-ordination of relief aid implementation by various actors.

Establishment of seed banks by KARI (local certified seeds)

Establishment of small irrigation schemes to increase crop production.

Rehabilitation of 60 community boreholes and rehabilitation and expansion of stalled Chiakariga/Mitunguu water pipeline

Construction and rehabilitation of cattle dips.

1. Stability

1.1 Rainfall

This being a dry season, there was no rainfall received in the entire district. Sunny weather accompanied by cloudy mornings was experienced through out the month.

1.2 Condition of natural vegetation and pasture

The general condition of vegetation is fair to poor. Most of the shrubs have shed down leaved hence dry browse is available in rain fed cropping and a few marginal mixed farming zones. The quality of the grazing grounds has deteriorated from last month due to persistent consumption; especially in areas where livestock movements have been taking place. The prolonged dry spell has further contributed to this condition; hence most of the forage quality is poor.

An average of 1 month of forage sustainability has been recorded while distances to and fro grazing areas are within seasonal range of 2.6 km on average as well as return time which is within 1.2 hours in mixed faming and rain fed cropping LH zones. In the lower parts of marginal mixed farming LH zones pasture is expected to last less than one month. In comparison to same month in a normal year, the situation is worse. Forage quality and quantity varied across livelihood zones. The marginal mixed farming zones had the least amount of forage.

1.3 Water sources and Availability Water sources

Households are currently relying on permanent rivers, protected springs, pipeline water and boreholes for both livestock and domestic use. Generally, water situation has deteriorated from last month due to evapotranspiration and over utilization through small scale irrigation in the upper zones of Meru district. Water levels have reduced significantly in permanent rivers; prompting rationing in irrigated areas of Karocho and Tunyai. Pollution of the surface water sources and congestion at water points were common observations. The current situation does not differ much from a normal situation. Water situation was worse in the lower zones of marginal mixed farming LH zones where boreholes output reduced (some dried up).

The current average return distance and time to water sources is 2.6 Kms and 1.2 hours respectively. Ntongoro zone recorded the longest distance of 8 kms. The distance has increased slightly from last month when some shallow river wells and boreholes were functional. This however does not deviate from the normal situation and varied across the livelihood zones. Kanjoro and Kathacini recorded the longest distance to water sources while Chiakariga recorded the longest time spent to access the water. This is due to congestion at the water source (protected spring).

1.4 Emerging issues.

There has been lots of diversion of water in most catchment's areas for irrigation and also farming along the river banks (mainly in neighboring Meru district). This has lead to very low water levels in the lower zones (Tharaka district), a situation if not addressed in time will lad to destruction of most catchment's areas in the region.

Massive wild birds deaths observed in Kathangacini and Kanjoro locations ought to be investigated and necessary remedial measures taken to avoid risk to human and poultry.

1.4.1 Livestock Migration

Livestock (cattle) are moving towards the banks of river Tana where green pasture is available. These movements are mainly within Maragwa, Kanjoro, Kathangacini and Kamanyaki areas and have led to rapid depletion of vegetation cover leaving loose degraded soil prone to erosion. Cattle from the neighboring Mwingi district moved into Kamanyaki location to graze along the river Tana.

1.4.2 Other factors affecting food security

The lower zones of the marginal mixed farming livelihood zones normally receive the least amount of rainfall in the district, and have had continued crop failure in the past years. Households in these areas experience the most water stress during the dry season and special attention ought to be paid to these areas while undertaking interventions of the above mentioned kind.

2. Food availability

2.1 Livestock production

2.1.1 Livestock body condition

General body condition for shoats is good and fair for cattle, a deviation from what was observed last month, and this is attributed to deterioration in forage situation and increased distances from HH to grazing grounds and watering points. This is however a normal observation in this time of the year. Cattle in marginal mixed farming livelihood zones have the weakest bodies. These are areas with greatest pasture and water stress.

2.1.2 Livestock diseases

There have been incidents of CCPP among goats in Kamanyaki location and heart water disease in shoats in Kanjoro and pats of Chiakariga location. Newcastle among poultry was also reported in Kanyuru sub-location. These observations are within the expected seasonal range.

2.1.3 Milk production

Milk production reduced notably in the month. The current poor condition of forage has lead to this. The calving and kidding rates are low in all the LH zones. The above observations are normal for this time of the year.

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