Kenya has experienced its worst drought in 40 years

The acacia trees turned black, as far as the eye could see, on the rocky ground. Creek beds are still recognizable, but are now dry. Goats, cattle and camels roaming in search of pasture. Here is the view of Samburu County, an arid region of Kenya and one of the most affected by the drought that hit the country. The last four monsoons have failed, and the consequences are clearly visible.

Ten kilometers to fill a can of water

In the east of the county, the village of Sirata lost its water source. Sitting in her manyatta, this traditional dwelling made of wood and covered with tarpaulins, Anastasia Lesootia is in despair. This resident now has to walk 10 kilometers to fill his water bottle, then return the other way.

I leave in the morning and I return in the middle of the afternoon, he explained, referring to having some breaks along the way, as this 46-year-old mother is pregnant with her ninth child. Childbirth is “for as soon as possible”.

Married since she was 20, taking care of the household is difficult for Anastasia now. He has 47 cows, he has only one left. And of his 68 goats, he has only three left. The effects of drought are devastating both for animals and for us, he says, it often happens that we don’t eat for two or three days. » For these pastoral communities, domestic animals were important. It is a source of food but also cash to pay for school or health fees.

The pastoral way of life is no longer viable

Alois Lekamapa no longer has animals. This father of 12 children sold his livestock that survived the drought to send his eldest son to higher education. For this 55-year-old shepherd, the pastoral way of life is no longer viable. This is the third drought in ten years. Even if it rains, the amounts are not enough to plant enough pasturehe explains, and it’s not like we can go back to agriculture. So we are very dependent on help. »

With a serious face, Alois Lekamapa also causes conflicts with elephants. The local people share the remaining water source with the animals which, also suffering from a lack of pasture, sometimes venture into the manyattas in search of food, destroying homes, injuring and sometimes killing the inhabitants. The village lost a child, crushed by an elephant. Alois is also worried about the young people who pass out on their way home from school, having to walk several kilometers on an empty stomach.

Food prices are rising

The village of Sirata is no exception. Forecasts for the rainy season that starts in October, until December, are bad. Arid and semi-arid regions experience only low rainfall. “We don’t expect the pasture to recover but the situation will worsen, explains Jillo Elema, the coordinator in Samburu of the NGO Acted where he organizes distributions of water, food for animals and money transfers. In these regions, 99% of the population depends on livestock to survive. It is an entire way of life that is endangered. »

In addition to the lack of water, the prices of staple foods have exploded in Kenya in recent months, the combined consequences of the drought, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. To deal with this, at the end of September, the new Kenyan president, William Ruto, oversaw the delivery of food to the most affected counties. A cash transfer system for the most vulnerable households has also been set up. But the aid was timely and insufficient to cope with Kenya’s worst drought in forty years.

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Drought also affects wildlife

Water points have dried up and pastures have shrunk within nature reserves in Kenya, resulting in excessive wildlife mortality.

Fourteen species are specifically affected. According to a report presented by the Ministry of Tourism on November 4, 205 elephants, 512 wildebeests, 381 zebras, 12 giraffes and 51 buffaloes died due to lack of water between February and October 2022.

In his speech at COP27, the Kenyan president claimed the country spent $3 million to provide water and food to wild animals in the past three months.

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