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Climate Change Takes Toll On Kenya’s Pastoralists

ISIOLO, Kenya, (Xinhua) -- Pastoralists in northern Kenya are slowly shedding off livestock rearing into crop farming following recurrent droughts that wiped out their animals.

While some of the pastoralists prefer livestock rearing as their main stay, others have abandoned the practice and diversified into small scale farming.

Adan Fayo, 44 years old from Merti in Isiolo County, is one among other herders who opted out of livestock rearing into farming following 2008 drought that hit northern Kenya where livestock were lost in masses.

We have learnt a lot from the previous droughts that reoccur after every season where thousands of animals worth millions of shillings were wiped,” Fayo told Xinhua in an interview on Monday.

The pastoralist communities that inhabit in northern Kenya are still reeling from effects of climate change, several months from the aftermath of severe drought and famine that hit most parts of the country in 2012.

Harsh climate change over the years has led to cattle rustling and conflict over water and pasture which has been relatively common among these communities sometimes going unstated, but the recent cycles of violence in the area that is reportedly said to have left dozens of people dead has caught the attention of UN and the government.

Fayo admitted that though he lost hundreds of livestock in 2002 drought he did not embrace farming until 2008 when he lost 240 herds of cattle to the drought forcing him to move to the town where he survived on relief food supply with his five children.

Fayo is among the ex-herders who joined hand and created furrows along Ewaso Nyiro River where they ventured into large scale farming to improve their way of life.

Fayo said half of the herders in the larger northern region dropped their way of life into farming after their livestock perished following recurrent drought the wiped out their cattle, camels and goats.

We formed groups and diversified our livelihood from pure pastoralism into crop and vegetable farming,” said Fayo.

He said some of the pastoralists like him were forced to join the group after the World Food Program (WFP) reduced the number of relief food beneficiaries and later stopped supplying relief food to hunger stricken families in the area.

Fayo said the number of herders joining the Jalla Jallalu farm was swelling after Merti Integrated development program, a local NGO operating in the region offered free seeds to farmers through the support of Catholic Organization for Relief Development and Aid (CORD AID).

He said the group was targeting 2,000 hactares of land from the current 1,000 that hosts 700 ex-herders.

We have reached out to other 500 herders to increase the network and venture into farming following December short rains,” said Fayo.

He said more than 300 ex-herders have gone through training organized by Merti Integrated Development Program (IDP) on better skills on farming and importance of diversifying their livelihood to ensure food security.

We are now past relief food beneficiaries because hunger had driven us into crop farming where we are reaping maximum profit,” said ex-herder.

Fayo is now a successful farmer who supplies water melon, green vegetables, high grade onions, maize, beans, tomatoes and peas to the local markets on daily basis.

Merti Integrated Development Program CEO Jillo Shande said the farmers have started harvesting and marketing their farm produce to larger towns in Isiolo and Meru County.

He said his organization through CORDAID have embarked on supporting the groups in order for them to realize their dreams.

Shande said the organization will empower the groups to use scientific research to help in improving food shortage caused by climate change.

The CEO said lack of food in the region and more so in the country was as result of farmers failing to use proper research advice when dealing with food security.

He said herders will also be advised on venturing into drought resistant crops as a copping mechanism for the drought in the region.

Ex-herders success stories came three months after the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries launched a resilience projects to cushion the pastoralists against the effect of the drought.

The agriculture ministry in conjunction with the African Development Bank (AfDB) had launched 64-million-dollar drought resilience and sustainable livelihoods program in Isiolo of northern Kenya.

The project which is funded by AfDB and the Kenyan government is aimed at contributing to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs).

Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Felix Koskei said the agenda to mitigate drought emergencies came out of the impacts of the 2008-2011 droughts in the horn of Africa.

The secretary said the AfDB was supporting the agricultural sector in its five components at the tune of 145 million dollars.

He said the projects funded by the AfDB in the agricultural sector includes restoration of farm infrastructure and livelihood improvement, small scale horticultural project, green zones development support and Ewaso Nyiro conservation project among others.

Already the government has dedicated 6.8 million dollars to demonstrate its commitment towards economic growth and drought resilience in the arid regions.

Koskei said the damages and losses caused during the last drought was estimated at 11.3 billion dollars in value while livestock losses were significant at 8.1 billion and agriculture stands at 1.4 billion dollars.

Koskei said the resilience project shall be one of the initiatives in the agriculture sector that contribute to food security as well as provide Kenyan in ASALs with opportunities for generating incomes and creating wealth.

He said his ministry was working towards ensuring that every county produces surplus of food for its own use and builds community resilience by providing the enabling environment for investment and sustainability.

Koskei was addressing in Isiolo during the commissioning of the resilience and sustainable livelihood project that targets Marsabit, Turkana, Isiolo, Baringo and Samburu counties on Nov. 30.

He said the new project is anchored on the first pillar of the first medium term plan for vision 2030 supporting the development of agriculture and livestock sub-sectors to enhance food, industrial crop and livestock production in arid and semi arid areas.

Koskei regretted that over 10 million Kenyans suffer chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition as result of drought and flood in the country.

We are going to employ advanced technologies such as irrigation, water harvesting and feed conservation measures under this erratic weather patterns in arid areas to ensure better production,” Kosgey said.

He said the government recognized that subsistence farming had failed and that there was need to start a revolution in the agricultural sector to spur the area into economic and viable for commercial benefit.

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