By Laura Sheahen
“When you’re hungry, if you have seeds, you start cooking.” Kotola Susana grins ruefully as he describes the situation of many of his fellow Kenyan farmers. After years of poor rains culminated in a devastating drought in East Africa, farmers ran out of options. In southern Kenya, where they raise corn, sorghum and other grains, fields were dry and brown. In the north, where most families live off their herds, people watched goats and cows grow rib-thin and die.
The drought of 2011 destroyed agricultural and livestock safeguards that millions of East Africans rely on. “People ate up their seeds. The seed banking system had collapsed,” says Shadrack Musyoka, who works for Caritas in a southern farming area called Kitui. “And a lot of seed was wasted when people planted early and the rains didn’t come.
“People who were traditionally OK were suddenly not OK.”
In an area of northern […]
By Laura Sheahen
Alice had always been first in her class as a child, but now she kept getting kicked out of secondary school. “Every time people were sent home for lack of school fees, my name was on the list,” she says. “I was ashamed.”
Education in Kenya is technically free, but in poor villages, parents are required to give a few dollars a month to pay teachers or even fix the school roof. So Alice would leave classes for a few weeks until her farming family could scrape together enough money to send her back. Then she’d struggle to catch up. “I had to work harder,” she remembers. “I didn’t sleep very much.”
In fits and starts, she managed what seemed to be impossible for a village child whose parents never went to school: she was accepted into a university.
“I studied organic chemistry and math,” she says. “I tested organic […]
Your support helped over one million people in East Africa overcome their worst drought in 60 years. You made it possible for Caritas to distribute emergency food, create water projects, and give out seeds so farmers can rebuild.
In November 2011, Caritas Communications Officer Laura Sheahen visited Kenya to see the community response in action. Explore the features below to find out how your support made a difference.
When drought pits neighbour against neighbour
“Herdsmen came here looking for pasture,” says Mwinzi Munyoki Tutu, a young farmer in southern Kenya. “We refused.”
‘You heard our cries’: hunger in East Africa
“I met a woman who was crying because she couldn’t remember the last time she had seen so much food.”
Seeds of hope after drought
“When you’re hungry, if you have seeds, you start cooking.” Kotola Susana grins ruefully as he describes the situation of many of his fellow Kenyan farmers.
Kenyan students back to school
Alice had […]
What is the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa?
In Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and nearby areas, a severe drought has led to massive numbers of people going hungry. Famine has been declared in several districts of Somalia. Because goats and cattle are dying of thirst and starvation, people who herd livestock are losing their source of food. Hundreds of thousands of children are malnourished.
The extreme weather has dried up crops, as well as rivers and other water sources. These losses come at a time when farming households’ food supplies are already extremely low, as they wait for their mid-year harvest to mature–if they were able to plant crops or have not used the seeds to feed their families.
Sharply rising food prices–caused not only by the drought but by world economic conditions–have affected many impoverished people in the region, including those in towns and cities.
What are people doing to cope?
Caritas Internationalis humanitarian director Alistair Dutton explains why Caritas has a big focus on harvesting and storing water in drought-hit East Africa.
The simple answer to a drought should be for it to rain lots. The crops would grow, the animals would get fed and people would know where their next meal and drink would be coming from.
People are desperate for rain in East Africa where up to 13 million people need emergency assistance because of one of the worst droughts in 60 years. But it’s not the simple solution it seems.
Alistair Dutton, humanitarian director for Caritas Internationalis has just returned from a trip to Ethiopia and Kenya. He met with Caritas member organisations working in these countries to discuss the best short- and long-term answers to the devastating hunger crisis caused by the drought.
“We went to a village and scores of people were sitting under trees. They had gathered […]
By David Snyder
As if the cracked earthen floor of the Kwa Kivanga dam is not reminder enough of the drought gripping Kenya, the long waits for water make memories of last year’s plenty that much more painful. Just one year ago, this pond in Kenya’s drought-stricken Eastern Province helped feed a nearby borehole with so much clean water that local residents could fetch all they could carry – a memory local resident Daniel Motiso cannot help but smile at now.
“We had a pump but it wasn’t producing much water. We could only get one jerry can each day because we limited the water,” Motiso said of the days before the dam was built. “After the dam we could get four cans.”
Built by Caritas Kenya as part of the Katangi Food Security Project in 2008, the Kwa Kivanga dam has been a huge success. Here in the village of Kalele […]
By David Snyder
His thinning white hair dyed orange in the traditional local style, Aden Esse Kan stands amid the swirling dust clouds of eastern Ethiopia, eager to talk about the drought that now plagues this region.
An elder in the village of Togo Wuchale, a dusty half hour drive from the town of Jijiga, Kan summarises the problems facing his community, “The drought affects us in two ways – our people and our livestock,” Kan said. “There is no rain at all so we don’t have anything to eat.”
Today across much of Ethiopia, where as many as 11 million people are in need of food aid, that is a distressingly common refrain. For traditional pastoralists like those from the Jijiga region, just sixty kilometers from the border with Somalia, the drought has devastated local grazing land, forcing many in the village of Togo Wuchale to drive their thinning herds further […]
The land is barren, the animals are dead, the people are starving. This is one face of northern Kenya in July 2011.
“The famine started last year,” says Ellela from the village of Lokitaung. “There were no rains last year or this year. We have had drought for two years. If there are no people with the good heart to help us we will die.”
On a recent trip to Kenya, Eoghan Rice from Trócaire (Caritas Ireland) reported seeing malnourished children waiting at clinics for emergency treatment, adults who were just skin and bone and the carcasses of livestock littering the scorched and lifeless ground.
“I have not had a proper meal in seven days,” said Locheramoe Kuwom. “I had nothing yesterday except for tea. The day before I had a bit of palm fruit. There is a lot of hunger here. If this situation goes on, most of the people who […]
The rolling mountains in the distance are known locally as Louwa Le Ukinchu, or Cattle Mountains. For generations, people have travelled there to find water and pasture for their animals. But today, the streams that run down Cattle Mountains are dry.
Most families in Isiolo, 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, are pastoralists: they rely on cattle, goats, sheep, donkeys and camels to make a living. These animals aren’t simply a source of food and milk – they’re living banks, the main assets that people own. When their animals die, as they’ve been doing at an alarming rate, pastoralists don’t have the means to feed their families.
The devastating drought that’s hit large parts of northern Kenya has forced pastoralists near Cattle Mountains to travel further than ever before in search of water and pasture to keep their animals alive. The effects are visible in the expansive dry scrublands: […]