Livestock farmers in Kenya: threatened by starvation and Kalashnikovs


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Status: 06.05.2022 09:25 AM

In Kenya, the desperate search for grass drives ranchers into dangerous territory: there are pastures in the high mountains, but there are also other herders with rifles. People continue to die in battles for the herds.

Written by Bettina Rolle, ARD Studio Nairobi

The fourteen children who had been locked by Lugyalam Ludia in a hut so that they would not escape complain excitedly. Ludia clicks, little animals know the sound, it means that he is about to feed her milk. The goats with the eldest son Ludia and the rest of the herd went out in search of grass.

Not an easy task: in Turkana, a region in northern Kenya, everything has dried up and three rainy seasons have already failed. Only a few of Ludia’s once large flock survived the drought. “I only have 42 goats left,” says Ludia. “That’s all I have left of 1,200 sheep and goats.”

Cattle thieves are waiting in the mountains

Turkana and many other areas of Kenya are experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. It has rained quite a bit there the past few days, but it has rained quite a bit. However, compared to many other herders in northern Kenya, Ludia and his neighbors have one advantage: their village is not far from the nearby mountains of Uganda. Ludia says it rains more there, animals find grass – but the area is dangerous.

“Since the drought started, we have always driven our herds to the Ugandan mountains because we couldn’t find more food here.” But where there was lush grass, cattle rustlers were waiting. “They often attack us, we are afraid of them. If we think the danger is particularly great, we take our animals back to the plains, back to Kenya, as quickly as possible. But since we have nothing to eat here, we dare to go to the mountains again and again.”

In recent months, they have been constantly fleeing with their animals, from drought and from cattle thieves with their guns. Because their sheep, goats, and livestock are already weakened by the lack of food, many of them will not be able to survive long distances.

Died from drought and rain

Benedict Maillot estimates that 40 percent of livestock did not survive the drought. He manages Welthungerhilfe projects in Turkana. He thinks more animals will die – even though it’s raining here and there now.

“If the rains continue in the coming weeks, the grass will grow again, the rivers will transfer more water again, and perhaps the groundwater supply will be replenished – at the moment the groundwater level is very low.” On the other hand, rain is dangerous for goats and other animals that have been severely weakened by drought. “Some may survive the wet and cold weather, and others will likely die from the rain,” he says.

Children cannot be fed

Adung Longolan Ikoel took some goatskins from her hut and threw them on the ground. Equile lives in a different village than Ludia, far from the mountains. Only in the morning did she lay another goat’s skin on the ground with wooden sticks to dry in the sun. “I lost ten goats to drought, and yesterday nine died due to rain. And one goat died last time this morning,” she says. She has only two children left.

Equile points to one of the skins: she was the mother of the surviving child. Then she points to the fresh skin this morning: and this is the mother of the second. The two young goats probably won’t live long either, says Ekwell. “I have nothing to feed them. Now I don’t know how to feed my children. We depend on our goats, and without them I cannot do anything for my children.”

It depends on animals to survive

Semi-nomadic herders depend on their animals for survival: they drink milk and eat meat or sell an animal when they need money. Those who lost their flock will soon follow themselves.

Unless he gets help in a short time. Among other things, the Welthungerhilfe began distributing concentrated feed to weaker animals. It also provides logistical support to the government in distributing complementary foodstuffs to severely malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women. In Turkana alone, nearly 64,000 people suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

Welthungerhilfe support

There is a lot of activity under the big tree: the assistants set up a mobile clinic so that people do not have to travel long distances to the next city. Young children under the tree are weighed and measured, and helpers note the circumference of their upper arms. It shows whether the child is malnourished or not. If necessary, mothers are given additional therapeutic food for two weeks to take home with them, then they should go back and have the next ration and the assistants check if the children are stronger.

The Welthungerhilfe’s nutrition program is aimed at children under the age of five, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Photo: Caroline Hoffman

Not everyone can be helped

An aide places a tape measure around the upper arm of little Lobito Ebnio, shown in red: The two-year-old is severely malnourished. His mother is worried but is not surprised: “Because of the drought. All our goats died, we have no milk and nothing to eat,” says Emunia Emariu. The mother says her other seven children are no better off. But they’re five years older, so she didn’t bring others with her in the first place.

The nutrition program targets only children under the age of five, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. Even for them, the available help is not enough, which is why the nutritional status of others is not recorded.

Helpers are overwhelmed by the need, says Benedict Melo of Welthungerhilfe. Benedict Melo says: “All aid organizations have arrived alongside the Kenyan government so far maybe half of the needy. But by no means all are in need.” Those who get nothing have to see how they survive.

Livestock farmers in Kenya: threatened by starvation and Kalashnikovs

Bettina Roll, ARD Nairobi, 6.5.2022 07:34 AM

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