In a village in Shanta abaq, Garissa district of north-eastern Kenya, a crowd is gathering for a baraza (public meeting). There will be an important announcement from the chief.
38-year-old Mama Jawahir remembers when she would rise in the morning and look forward to go out into the “baadiya” (bush) for a week to graze her herd. But times have changed and her herd has since dwindled to one goat. Even if she sold her goat she would not earn very much. There is no market nearby and she lacks the energy to walk to Garissa town to sell just one animal.
Jawahir is standing next to Adirahman. As the sun gets hotter, Adirahman looks for a cool area to rest. He has not had any regular meals since the last food distribution in January and has almost lost hope. Traditionally during drought, farmers with larger herds would offer milking animals to the poorest members of the community. But this time even the richer farmers have nothing to spare.
The chief announces that a special kind of assistance will be provided. The aid agency CARE Kenya with funding from the European Commission (ECHO) will purchase animals for slaughter and then distribute the meat to 80,000 vulnerable people. CARE is one of the leading agencies helping to coordinate and plan aid efforts in Kenya.
Garissa district has suffered recurrent droughts since 1991, leaving many people destitute. The livestock on which people depend has suffered from reduced grazing pastures. Pastoralists have rushed to sell their animals to meet food needs and avoid losses but this has resulted in lower prices. Meanwhile grain prices have risen due to falling production in many parts of the country. The poorest families are going very hungry.
This ECHO funded project is part of a wider intervention in northern Kenya called “preserving assets, protecting livelihoods”. The idea is to provide humanitarian help for pastoralists in Garissa by offering them a ready market for their animals. The cash acts as insurance in times of drought. Mama Jawahir will not only get to sell her animal, she will also receive a hide which she can put to other uses. She will also be saved a long walk to and from the market.
The pastoral community has an immediate solution to a long term problem. But next year the drought will come again. More sustainable and long term support must be found in time.
Betty Kweyu (CARE) and Elizabeth Kiarie (ECHO)