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Getting my family through the Kenyan drought

Tumme in Kutur, Marsabit County, Kenya.
Tumme in Kutur, Marsabit County, Kenya. Photo: Joyce Kabue/Oxfam

Kenya has declared drought and hunger a national disaster. In the drylands where people are used to scarce rain, resilience is being tested. The Resilience Consortium made up of Concern Worldwide, Transparency International and Oxfam has received European Commission support to help 64 communities build their capacity to respond to emergencies such as droughts and advocate for better preparedness through their county leaders. They have also provided people in need, especially also women who have the responsibility of feeding their families, with cash to get them through these difficult times. Tumme is one of these women. She lives in Marsabit county with her family and talks about how they are coping.

Joyce Kabue, Media and Communications Advisor, Oxfam in Kenya

By Joyce Kabue, Media and Communications Advisor, Oxfam in Kenya.

We have been in this state of drought for almost 4 years now. Before when it would rain, we would sell our livestock and use the money to buy food and water for the dry season. But this drought has taken so long. We have not managed to get a good price for our weakened animals,” says Tumme.

Tumme Abudho Boru is 40 years old, a pastoralist, wife and mother of six. She is the sole breadwinner of her household of eight people. Tumme’s husband is much older and unable to help her with any work; he can no longer herd animals and stays at home. He also no longer attends public barazas (community meetings), so Tumme represents her family.

Tumme’s main source of income is her livestock. She had 20 goats, but because of the prolonged drought many died and only 10 remained. She also sold one during a ‘slaughter off take’, whereby they got the chance to sell their weak livestock for a higher-than-market-price. The animals are then slaughtered and shared among the community. So now she’s left with only 9 goats. As a result of the drought, her goats no longer produce milk, so income from her goats has literally dried up.

As a mother I feel the pain of my children when they go without food because of the drought. When they are hungry, they cry to me for food. I have gone to ask for food on credit because I cannot stand to see the children cry. Unfortunately, many shops have closed down because most of us cannot pay our debts,” says Tumme.

"Cash guarantees us an extra meal. With it, we buy the things we need the most like milk, vegetables, and water."

To supplement her income, she works as a cook in a nearby community school where she earns about KES 800 per month, approximately €8. However, due to the drought she earns even less because some parents are unable to pay for the food or school fees and fewer children are attending school.

Fortunately, her family is included in the government’s Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) and is also benefiting from the emergency response cash provided by the consortium with EU humanitarian funds.

The 3 000 Kenyan shilling we received from Concern are very useful to us. It guarantees us an extra meal. With it, we buy the things we need the most like milk, vegetables, and water,” says Tumme.

The cash enables people to buy the essentials: water, health care for the children as well as milk and vegetables which are currently difficult to find. Tumme collects the money on behalf of her husband who is unable to leave their home. She received KES 3 000 (€30) from the slaughter-off-take in December and an additional KES 3 000 (€30) from the cash transfer emergency response in February.

Tumme is now considering investing in a small business to help her community have easier access to essential foods. She says she will open a small shop and stock it with tea, sugar, rice, maize meal, spaghetti, salt and other foods once she recovers from the drought. For now, she is focused on getting her family through this difficult period.

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