Easing the impact of drought in Kenya – Alice’s story

Easing the impact of drought in Kenya – Alice’s story

26/10/2017

Kenya is currently experiencing one of the worst food security crises in recent years due to a prolonged drought. Back-to-back failed rainy seasons have eroded community resilience and compromised livelihoods. "This is the third season in a row that families have had to endure failed rains - they are simply running out of ways to cope," said FAO's Director of Emergencies Dominique Burgeon. "Support is needed now before the situation rapidly deteriorates further”. The Early Warning – Early Action (EWEA) Programme was one initiative to respond to this call.

Prior to the current crisis, FAO alongside the National Drought Management Authority established a EWEA system in mid-2016 to mitigate drought – a common threat in the country. Signs of drought were detected through a range of indicators including rainfall, vegetation indexes, and livestock conditions among others. This signified the need to begin early action activities. FAO pre-established Early Action Fund released USD 400 000 to protect livestock of vulnerable communities in identified high-risk areas. Interventions have included feeding programmes, animal health treatments and livestock market management associations. One village selected for this project was Tsangatsini, where 46-year old Alice Katiwe lives.

Alice raises a variety of livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats and chickens and growing crops such as maize, amaranth and chickpeas. She lives on a one and quarter acre piece of land with her four children including her eldest son’s wife and kids. Livestock is her main source of income, supporting not only the household’s needs but also providing education for her two youngest children. In Alice’s community, there have been growing fears about the intensity of this drought “I was chatting with the elders earlier and I asked them about the drought. They all agreed that this has been the worst they have ever seen. None had experienced anything of this magnitude”.

In January 2017, when the impact of the drought started to emerge, Alice started to worry about the health of her 12 cows “[they] were so emaciated to an extent that eventually they lost all of their strength”. During this time, she lost four and sold one of her 12 cows to cope and was searching for ways to protect her remaining seven. Moving or even selling her cattle was no longer a viable option as prices drastically reduced from 8 300Ksh (80 USD) to 3 000Ksh (30 USD) per head of cattle.

To prevent the loss of her livestock, Alice was assisted through FAO’s Early Action Emergency livestock Feed Programme. She received four bags of ranch cubes and 30 multi-nutrient blocks to support her core breeding herd.

Upon receiving the feed, Alice noticed a distinctive improvement in their health: “now they look much better, and their condition has improved tremendously. My cows have gained a lot of weight, and look much stronger in their walk. This is unlike how they looked before starting on the food”. Her main breeding cow “is even expecting, meaning that if she continues feeding well until term, she shall stay healthy. I expect her to produce a lot of milk, because when a cow is healthy, she produces a lot of it”.

By acting early and safeguarding Alice’s livestock, she was able to maintain key breeding animals during the peak of the drought. By keeping these animals alive, Alice maintained her key source of income intact, allowing her to even increase her herd numbers and to sell the additional milk for extra revenue. While drought continues in Kenya, Alice’s story highlights the importance of acting early to support to protect livelihoods against shocks. FAO has understood that action needs to be taken early before a crisis escalates into an emergency. This builds resilience and reduces both disaster losses and the costs of emergency response.