Kenya: Meru farmers and Isiolo herders unite to survive drought
In a normal year when the grocery stores are full of crops, Mr. Tratisio Kamunturiu, from Lachathuriu in Tigania West, Meru County, would be angry to see herds of camels around his farm.
For years, Meru farmers and Isiolo’s camel herders clash, the former accusing the latter of trespassing.
But today, Mr. Kamunturiu and his wife Nyoroka see the camel herders as a godsend – they haven’t harvested anything substantial from their one-acre farm in the past three years.
When Nation.Africa visited their home last week, the midday sun was shining and the camels lined up along their farm’s spurge fence were lively feeding.
Two Borana herdsmen and a local interpreter watched the camels nibble pleasantly.
Farmers rent their spurge fencing from pastoralists for as much as 2,000 shillings, depending on the number of trees.
The biting drought forced the two eternal rival groups to forge an unheard-of relationship for survival.
“We have been struggling to put food on the table for a long time. Camel owners seeking pasture are a boon. good people and we value the relationship, ”Kamunturiu said.
He said in a good season he could get about 12 bags of corn from his land, but the last time he harvested that much was four years ago.
“This year, we haven’t received anything from the farm. I don’t know how I’m going to buy seeds this season. I now rely on odd jobs for food, and they are hard to find. government before the rains start, ”he said.
Ms Susan Makena says the food shortage has persisted for the past six years, with the situation worsening after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Learning has also been disrupted as children do not go to school due to hunger, said Mr. Samuel Muriira, a resident of Athwania.
Hard blow for agriculture
“We survive thanks to the support of our loved ones who work in the cities. The government should help us get seeds for this season, ”he said.
In areas where people depend on irrigation, the drying up of rivers has left many people without livelihoods.
Mr. Eric Mwenda, from Maraa in the south of Imenti, says the drying up of the Kithinu River has taken a toll on agriculture.
“We generally rely on the river to irrigate our bananas and fresh produce. For the past month, the river bed has been dry. Urgent interventions are needed to save our rivers,” Mwenda said.
Meru County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo said more than 120,000 residents are in need of emergency food assistance due to the devastating drought.
The most affected areas are the semi-arid regions of Igembe and Tigania where rains have been lacking for two years.
Mr Ngumo said 15 schools in Tigania East had received support from the Kenya Red Cross for a feeding program aimed at keeping learners in the classroom.
“We are also in talks with the Kenya Defense Forces to help provide water to livestock in grazing areas. The Ministry of Devolution is also supporting (…) affected residents,” he said. he declares.
Agricultural production in Meru during the previous season was low, with some areas experiencing a total crop deficit, according to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA).
The NDMA report for the month of August indicates that a high number of school dropouts was reported in the primary schools of Kamweline, Ithata, Ngitana, Murara, Kachiuru and Nginyo in Igembe Nord due to the lack of food in the House.
Igembe North MP Maore Maoka said several children sought menial jobs in the town of Laare as the biting drought drove them from their homes.
Last month, the Meru County government distributed 13 million shillings worth of corn and vegetable seeds to people in drought-affected areas.