Kenya currently faces the worst drought the country has seen. A 2021 report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) stated that approximately 2.1 million people in Kenya’s ASAL region are highly food insecure because of failed rains. In addition, low agricultural production and skyrocketing food prices mean thousands of children and women are acutely malnourished. In 2022, the situation has reached a brutal level as the region is experiencing a 10% increase. As a result, 4.2 million people, representing 24% of the ASAL population, face high levels of acute food insecurity, 2.7 million people are in the Crisis phase, and 785,000 are in an Emergency state.
This region has experienced three severe droughts throughout the last decade (2010-2011, 2016-2017, and 2020-2022). The frequency of the droughts has left the country in a fragile and vulnerable state, and it seems only to be worsening. Communities are at risk of mass deaths increasingly. Animals are struggling to feed, and clean water is extremely scarce.
Relief Web says, “More than 2.4 million livestock, which pastoralist families rely upon for nourishment and livelihood, have died in Kenya. For example, in Marsabit County, the communities have lost more than 121,000 sheep and goats, 35,000 camels, and 38,000 cattle in the last few months.”
As mentioned before, factors like irregular rain and poorly distributed spatially and temporally severely impact crop and livestock production, affecting crop production. In addition, dry spells, insufficient space and time distribution, restricted access to farm input, and worm infestation play a role in significantly reducing the amount of viable land to use. Therefore, unstable and high food and livestock prices create trends that force inhabitants to live beyond their means. This domino effect heavily affects farmers, herders, and consumers.
“Tensions and conflict over limited access to resources are increasing as pastoralist communities are moving in search of water and pasture, both within the traditionally negotiated areas or outside of these locations.”
The Borana and the Samburu are two communities that have been at loggerheads, but due to the severity of the water scarcity, they have no option but to share resources.
“There is no water, and this is the only place with water so this tells us that conflict can happen at any time, at any given moment here,” says Fredick Larapo, a field office coordinator at humanitarian NGO Mercy Corps.
Herders have resorted to using underground reserves of water to get by.
“We are hopeless. I think there are only few days left before people begin to die since the drought has become overwhelming,” 20-year-old herder Letoyie Lereshi told Africa News.
The future looks bleak for the people of this region as there isn’t much they can do to turn the situation around. “If there is no water, there is no future,” said Timothy Lesigiran, project manager at Mercy Corps.
“People will die, animals will die, they cannot even cook in the evening because there is no water so they cannot eat. So, if they don’t eat for two to three days, they will die.”