Vaccination of livestock in Samburu by FAO. PHOTO/KRCS
By SPECIAL CORRESPONDFENT
Millions of Kenyans are currently still facing acute food insecurity in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) across the country which had majorly been caused by the below-average short-rains season at the end of 2016.
Preliminary results of the Long Rains Assessment (LRA) released by the Government of Kenya on 28 July reported that 3.4 million people are food insecure and in need of assistance which was the highest number of people reported to be in crisis, since about the same time in 2011 when the number in need was estimated to be 3.7 million.
The ASAL communities in the affected areas are now under significant stress because their Livelihoods have been disrupted as the weather conditions continue to worsen. The pasture and browse conditions have also been deteriorating which subsequently affect the body conditions of livestock, which is the lifeline of ASAL residents. This has equally impacted negatively on the prices of the livestock and the milk production as well. The volumes of livestock traded at the local livestock markets have also been dropping affecting the economy of these areas.
To alleviate the effects of the drought the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) initiated the Emergency Livelihood Response to Support Drought Affected (Agro) Pastoralists Project with support from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The project has been running in Samburu, Garissa, Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera and Tana River counties.
The three month project is a drought emergency intervention which aims at increasing the purchasing power of the community through direct income transfer to meat sellers; creating markets for livestock in affected counties, improve food and nutrition status among the communities’ vulnerable folk i.e. children and women through meat distribution and distribution of livestock feeds for weak animals.
“Samburu County is currently at the Late Alert stage of the current drought which has majorly affected Samburu North, Samburu East and partially affected Samburu Central. Currently, through the Emergency Livelihood Response to Support Drought Affected (Agro) Pastoralists Project funded by FAO, Kenya Red Cross has managed to support affected communities over a period of eight weeks,” Maurice Anyango, the Samburu County Coordinator said.
Henry Leyanangwesa, a meat seller from Lchakwai Sub-location, Samburu Central Sub county narrated during the final destocking exercise in the area.
Livestock destocking in Samburu by FAO. PHOTO/KRCS
“The money I receive from this project has assisted me very much because I have been able to feed my children by buying flour for Ugali. There is currently milk shortage due to the drought and therefore no milk to drink alongside the Ugali but fortunately through this project, I get meat to eat to substitute milk,” Leyanangwesa, said.
The Kenya Red Cross Society has been working closely with the National and County Governments in the target counties to ensure that the effects of drought are minimized through such interventions.
“So far, a total of 108 households have benefited from meat distribution in the county. 83households have also benefited from the distribution of 2,476 bales of hay and 490 bags of drought tolerant fodder seeds. Over 10,000 goats and sheep have received animal health medicine and mass treatments and destocking of 10 cattle and 1280 goats and sheep has been done,” Mr Anyango added.
“Through the meat distribution, the beneficiaries receive meat which has sufficient protein to last them through the eight weeks, which is culturally accepted as the meat is from their own livestock. The cash injection through purchase of livestock from community members revitalizes the local markets and the economy,” Pierce Simpkin, Head of livestock Sector, Food and Agricultural Organisaton of the United Nations (FAO) added.
The Kenya Red Cross Society is also supporting a total of 3,447households with 3,000 shillings each for a period of 5 months (September2017-January2018) through the Cash Transfer Project funded by ECHO which enables the drought affected communities across Samburu purchase the much needed food from the local markets. Health outreaches are also conducted in areas with high malnutrition rates in the county.