Thursday, April 15, 2010

Extreme weather in Kenya tests pastoralist perceptions

IRIN: The effects of climate change - such as drought, livestock deaths and resource conflict - may be all too apparent for the pastoralists of northern Kenya, but there is much to be done to explain the true causes. "We were warned about the current situation by our elders and spiritual leaders when I was very young. This was about 50 years ago when the Ngishili age groups were born,” Lemeteki Lerinagato, 70, told IRIN in the Samburu district.

He said the Ngishili began to be beset with bad luck when they started to marry, and that somso (floods) and ngolin (drought) would only end with their deaths. Similar views are shared by other communities across the arid North of Kenya.

"Our people are dying like wild animals due to hunger, thirst and poverty. Young men are being killed every day. I am afraid our girls will not find men to marry. It is a curse... nothing else," said Wario Ndenge, a Gabra elder from the upper eastern Marsabit region. "Frequent droughts and lack of food are clear signs of the curse. Women must stop wearing trousers. They should respect their husbands. And the wealthy must help the poor.”

….According to officials, most residents either disagree with the scientific explanation of climate change or are unaware are of it.….Lordman Lekalkalai, Isiolo Arid Lands Resource Management Project community officer, said. ''The delivery of accurate information will help pastoralists, who have suffered the brunt of climate change, understand that the challenges are not a passing crisis, and change their current perception''

…With more information, he hopes it will be easier to convince communities to act on weather forecasts to forestall losses such as livestock deaths - by selling herds. Residents have traditionally considered large herd ownership a source of wealth and pride…..

A young Maasai herder in Kenya in 1979, shot by John Atherton, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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