Women in Kajiado bear brunt of severe, prolonged drought

Drought

This year, thousands of people in many parts of Kenya have been left exposed to the shocks of a severe and prolonged drought. 

The situation looks dire in Kajiado County where women seem to bear the brunt of the ongoing dry spell. Theirs is a delicate balance of either finding their own food or that of their livestock.

While on a field tour of the area recently, I observed first-hand the impact caused by the current drought. In Nasaru Conservancy, a woman by the name Jackeline Parsin who hails from Ilkelunyeti village narrated to me the extent to which a prolonged period of abnormally no rains has affected her livelihood and that of her village mates.

Seated next to a community borehole, Parsin, who as expected appears distressed by the current situation, disclosed how she has so far lost over 20 cows since the drought set in. she also gives an account of how she is forced to walk more than 15 kilometres in search of water.

Drought
Jackeline Parsin is fetching water at the conservancy borehole. Photo by Lawrence Tikolo

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that even her donkey, her helper, has suffered the consequences of the biting shortage of water. Whereas the donkey could previously carry up to 10 jerricans of water from the water source located miles away, she says the donkey can now carry only three to four due to hunger.

What’s worse is the all the burden that comes with the drought appears to be shouldered mostly by women.

“The men have left us and moved to the hills where is it a little greener. We now have to fend for ourselves and the weaker livestock as they look for pasture and water for the rest. They sometimes even go out for three or more months before they return home,” she says.

Parsin loads up her donkey with barrels of water. Photo by Lawrence Tikolo

But amid the hard times for Parsin and many others like her in the village, there is hope. The World-Wide Fund for Nature-Kenya with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development funded the sinking of a borehole. The solar-powered well has come as a huge relief to the communities neighbouring the conservancy. Wild animals from the nearby habitats have also benefited greatly.

Veronica Shaga, a ranger employed in the conservancy, tells me the borehole supports close to 150 households. 42 in Ilkelunyeti, 30 in Esiteti, 51 in Nemasi and 24 in Emirishoi.

She says that one of her core duties since drought kicked in has been to protect the borehole as well as make sure wildlife and neighbouring communities amicably share the scarce resource.

Drought
Veronica Shaga, a ranger employed in the conservancy Photo by Lawrence Tikolo

“The wildlife which includes zebras, monkeys, impalas and hyenas, among others start to water at the borehole at around 5 PM, so I have to make sure that the community members and their livestock have cleared out well before that time to avoid human-wildlife conflict,” she says.

Shaga, 24, is one of two female rangers in her camp. She tells me she started working with the conservancy as a way of supporting her family as well as protect nature.

“I got an opportunity to work in the conservancy after a recruitment drive by KWS with the support of funding partners. WWF-Kenya is among the partners that support the rangers by paying our salaries,” she avers.

Livestock quenching their thirst at the community borehole. Photo by Lawrence Tikolo

The Horn of Africa region, including Kenya, is experiencing one of the worst droughts in 40 years. Two consecutive years without rains have visited misery to millions of people.

Statistics show that close to 2.5 million livestock has died in Kenya this year alone causing economic losses of more than USD 1.5 billion.

In Kimana market within Kajiado County, a cow goes for between Ksh 6,000 and Ksh 10,000 down from as far as Ksh 40,000 to Ksh 50,000 in the period before the dry spell.

Drought

Banati ole Keneti, Kimana market chairman says the sharp drop in prices can only be attributed to the ongoing drought.

“Some owners drive their cattle into the market hoping to sell at better prices, but their livestock is emaciated. They are left with no choice but to sell them at throw-away prices because they also figure out they cannot make the journey back home alive,” he says amid sighs.

Kenet, however, says that the sale of hay has become a booming business because of the lack of pasture. He says most of the hay retailing at around Ksh 350 is purchased for the ‘younger and weaker’ animals left in homesteads as the stronger ones trek for kilometres to graze.

Hay being sold at the Kimana Market. Photo by Lawrence Tikolo

Kenya’s world-famous wildlife heritage has not been spared either, a report by the Wildlife Research and Training Institute paints a grim picture of dead wildlife which include Wildebeest (512), Common Zebra (381), elephants (205), Grevy’s zebra (49), Buffalo (51) and many other wild fauna which litter parks and conservancies.

While making his remarks at the 27th Conference of Parties (COP 27) that is ongoing in Egypt, President William Ruto noted that Kenya has had to spend $3 Million to supply feed and water to wildlife in just 3 months.

Owing to the biting drought, the head of State indicated that Kenya has embarked on an ambitious programme aimed at increasing the national tree cover from the current 12.13% to 30% in the next 10 years.

“We intend to accomplish this by first growing 15 billion trees on approximately 10.6 million hectares of land throughout the country at an estimated cost of USD 5 billion,” he said.

The National Drought Management Authority noted last month that the drought situation worsened in twenty (20) of the 23 ASAL counties.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance currently stands at 4.35 million based on the 2022 food and nutritional security assessment report.

Eleven (11) counties namely; Garissa, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kitui, Mandera, Marsabit, Laikipia, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, and Wajir, are in the Alarm drought phase while Nine (9) counties including Embu, Kilifi, Kwale, Makueni, Meru, Narok, Nyeri, Tharaka Nithi and Taita Taveta are in the Alert drought phase. The remaining three (3) counties including Baringo, West Pokot, and Lamu are in the Normal drought phase.

  

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