Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kenyan herders switch to farming as droughts worsen

Gitonga Njeru in AlertNet: Frequent droughts are causing a share of Kenya’s cattle herders to abandon their longstanding tradition of livestock farming in favour of growing crops, in an effort to increase their income. Poor rainfall over the past several years, likely related to climate change, has resulted in increasing levels of hunger and poverty in the east African country, prompting President Mwai Kibaki to declare a national disaster on May 30.

To cope with the changing conditions, the government, in partnership with the World Food Programme, has developed a programme called Njaa Marufuko Kenya (Kenya Hunger Halt). Through education and assistance, it aims to help a share of the country’s six million pastoralists switch from herding to crop production.

“With a high incidences of severe drought in pastoral areas, we are working closely with the communities in sustainable agricultural activities. They are continuously losing their cattle herds and many have in the past not known crop farming,” said Philomena Chege, head of the new programme.

The herders are switching primarily to farming wheat, millet and maize, as well as fruit, mushrooms, and some crops for cattle feed. Narok County, in the southwest of Kenya, has seen the biggest uptake of the livelihood-switch initiative since it began in early 2010, according to Chege. As many as 35,000 Narok pastoralists and their families are participating, and a further 20,000 herders in other parts of the country have so far signed on....

A Maasai father and son tend their cattle in Kitengela, shot by ILRI, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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