Helping families in Kenya adapt to drought, using their own resources

In the desperately dry deserts of Northern Kenya, thousands of people have found themselves dependent on foreign aid for food in recent years. FH is teaching families how to use what they already have in a way that will ensure their survival and even prosperity in the midst of extreme drought and an unpredictable climate.

Understanding culture
Traditionally, many tribes in the north of the country are pastoralist — their lives revolve around their animals. In the Rendille tribe, having a large herd of animals — especially cows and camels — is a sign of wealth, stability and strength.

Animals are for show, and they are for food, but they are not for trading. To sell one of your animals means you’ve fallen upon tough times.

Even when drought strikes, pastoralists tend to hang onto their herds
as long as possible, selling them all as a last resort
and being left with no future means for income. 

Suffering from drought
Haldayan, a 27-year-old Rendille moran (young warrior), grew up caring for his father’s animals in this way. He eventually acquired his own animals (cattle, camels, goats and sheep) and kept them as a display of wealth until the drought in 2008-2009 killed many of them. Haldayan trekked the surviving animals to a nearby location in search of water and pasture, only to find many other herders from neighboring communities had done the same.

Fights erupted over the water and pasture as many people struggled to survive with few resources, and Haldayan lost some of his cattle to theft. He returned home once the rains finally fell at the end of 2009.

Introducing new ideas
Kenyan FH staff approached Haldayan’s community and organized group meetings for morans to share their experiences from the drought. (This is unique since the Rendille typically are seen as a hostile and wild group, so few development agencies work with them.) The group calculated the losses of their livestock in monetary terms and discussed ways to prevent this in the future.

FH taught these young herders the advantages of selling and trading their animals — not just keeping them.

They showed how trading won’t decrease one’s wealth, but it actually can increase it over time. FH also shared with these young men strategies for the best time to sell an animal and how to get a good price, both based on analysis of the local market.

These days, many morans come to sell and trade their animals at the market.

“The workshop was an eye-opener for me. I have never thought that I can earn money and herd my livestock without facing difficulty,” says Haldayan, who sold his first camel in January 2010 for about $350. Before FH’s training, he never had sold an animals for such a high price. Now, he is actively involved in the livestock trade on market days.

“Today, I have [about $600], and I am sure I will be able to expandmy livestock trading business,” he says. “I have also been able to provide my family
with enough food and have enough drugs for my livestock.
I am ready to face the future with a lot of confidence.”