Since the El Nino weather phenomenon in 2015/2016 East Africa has experienced irregular rainy seasons. Farmers are unable to predict when to plant seeds; meaning seeds are either unable to grow due to the lack of water, or growing plants are destroyed when the rains arrive late. This climate change related phenomena has resulted in food insecurity in many areas of East Africa, including Kenya. The number of food insecure people in Kenya increased from 1.3M to 2.6M in February 2017, with the Government declaring the drought a natural disaster.
Since 2014 Misean Cara has funded vital food assistance interventions for the Spiritans in two locations in Kenya; Barpello, Tangulbei and Marigat (East Pokot) and in Wenje Parish (Tana River County).
East Pokot is located in the North-West of Kenya. It is isolated from the rest of the country, with poor infrastructure and limited public transport. Since 2014, Misean Cara has provided funding for Spiritan projects in three locations in East Pokot.
The Pokot Ethnic group is typically made up of pastoralists, heavily reliant on their animals. The climate of the area is arid and semi-arid; rainfall is unreliable, poorly distributed and erratic, and daily temperatures range between 30°c – 45°c. In this harsh environment crop production is virtually impossible, therefore the Pokot adopt a semi-nomadic lifestyle allowing them to adapt to instances of drought and famine. During the drought season the issue of food and water security becomes more problematic, with the elderly and young children being the most vulnerable.
“Never in my last 18 years in Barpello did I see such a severe drought. The rains are now nearly 3 months overdue. The drought has left the old and young in a very vulnerable state.” Father David Conway C.S.Sp., Barpello Catholic Mission.
In 2016 Misean Cara provided emergency funding to the Spiritans to provide famine relief in Barpello to primary school children.
“See those kids playing over there? If it was not for the Parish who brought food for the school, I don’t know what would have become of them.” Cheponyorio Katulin Limareng, Mirkissi Community, Lokis Location.
“As a long-term solution, we believe that two things can help us: taking our kids to school because in the future they will help themselves and us when they secure jobs. The food that they are being given in school is important because it not only gives them a chance to get educated but also when they return to their homes in the afternoon, they have already eaten something because at home they may not find anything.” Musa Lokilimak, Parent, Krezze Primary School.
The issue of food security is further exasperated in some areas by conflict between different communities over water resources. Tangulbei constantly has to deal with these insecurity problems. As a result, lorries carrying vital food supplies are not always able to deliver to the area. This leads to a rise in malnutrition cases, especially in children under the age of five. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are also badly affected, sometimes having to walk for up to two days to get medical help.
“I remember one day when we slept hungry and another time when I missed school for two days because I was not strong enough to walk to school.” Felisters Cherutu, Pupil, St. Lukes Kasitet Catholic Primary School.
In 2017 Misean Cara provided funding to the Spiritans to undertake food distribution to over one thousand beneficiaries in Tangulbei. This included vulnerable communities such as school children, expecting and new mothers, and the elderly.
Tana River County
Wenje Parish is located approximately 8 hours drive from Nairobi. A large section of the road is rough, limiting the frequency of travel to and from Wenje. Along the route are security checkpoints put in place due to occasional insecurity caused by Al Shabaab.
Aside from insecurity concerns, the community in Wenje and neighbouring villages have had to deal with periods of severe food and water shortages, a problem which is compounded by the lack of access to proper healthcare services. Additionally, the communities never recovered from the 1998 El Nino and the 2006 – 2007 drought, after which drought started becoming more frequent and a majority of the people lost all livestock.
“For a number of seasons now, there has been a serious water shortage. Without water, we cannot plant anything and so people have nothing to eat. We have been having a lot of health problems such as cholera and malaria. We depend on seasonal flooding or rainwater for our farming. The flood comes when water is released from a dam far from here and when the water level goes down, we plant our crops. The rains have been very scarce and unreliable. The problem is also that seeds are very scarce because each time we hope for rain, we plant and those seeds are lost once the hot sun dries up the seedlings.” Ruth Hashora Mika, Wenje Parish.
Flooding is also a problem in Wenje. The floods are expected in November and December when dams upstream are opened. For the last two years, the floodwaters have not come. Despite depending on this water, it also causes problems for the farmers as land, crops and houses are destroyed.
In 2015 and 2016 Misean Cara funded Spiritan projects providing drought intervention and flood relief. The Food for Assets project enables individuals to benefit from food distribution in exchange for work. Vulnerable people who cannot work receive food for free.
“There is a time that we did not eat for about seven days as no one could help us. At that same time, my child was very sick. I joined the Food for Assets project because I believe that whoever has an axe would not lack firewood so the work was my means to get some food to eat. During the project, we cleared bushes to make way for a road, so people and animals are now able to move without fear of snakes or buffaloes.” Ebla Adha, Wenje Parish.
Special report by Nicole Moran. Photos by Nyokabi Kahura.