Monday, October 22, 2012

Helping herders in Kenya to survive drought

Meteorologists are forecasting more drought like conditions for Kenya and Eastern Africa again next year. Many people who live there have not recovered from the last one in 2011. In the efforts to help withstand the next drought, an NGO has found one solution can be found with the sheep and cattle herders in the region.

From the Guardian, writer Peter Guest tells us about the effort to help pastoralists.

"If they could get the business component, poverty is not a word you could use in Turkana," says Desterius Mulama, financial officer for Cezam and Associates, a Kenyan firm working with the US African Development Foundation (USADF) to improve food security.
Mulama moved to Turkana a year ago to work on the project. He is amazed at the scale of the herds in the region. "There is one old man who has 3,000 camels and 10,000 goats, but he walks barefoot," Mulama says. "If he sold just half of them, he would be a millionaire."
A government census put the number of goats in the county at around 5 million, with 1.5 million cattle. All across Turkana, herders carrying crooks pick their way through acacia trees, guiding huge flocks.
In many cases pastoralists still view animals as wealth and, even when the pasture dries up and there is no water, they will not sell them. The animals die and people starve. Building sustainable trading structures and introducing pastoralists to the cash economy should, Mulama hopes, ease them out of cycles of drought and food insecurity. "For pastoralists, our biggest challenge is to educate them on holding capacity," Mulama says. "Why should I hold 1,000 goats when I can only feed 100?"
Traders from Nairobi are starting to visit the markets in Turkana. Under Mulama's guidance, and with seed funding from USADF, the district livestock marketing council now has offices and computer equipment, and its staff have been trained in bookkeeping and other management disciplines so they will be able to build better commercial links with the rest of the country. A recent sale of 1,000 head of goats for export has raised hopes that the model may work.

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