With millions of Kenyans in need of humanitarian assistance, the focus of aid agencies has shifted to using local resources and boosting the regional economy rather than providing food handouts.
The drought in Kenya has left 3.4 million people in urgent need of food assistance, the highest level since 2011. The most severely affected areas are in the north of the country.
"The drought in Kenya was mainly caused by the below-average short rains season at the end of 2016 and the situation is yet to change. The arid and semi-arid communities in the affected areas are now under significant stress because their livelihoods have been disrupted as the weather conditions continue to worsen," Maurice Onyango, Kenya Red Cross Society Country Coordinator, told DW.
One of the hardest hit communities is the Samburu people, who are nomadic pastoralists and depend on livestock to earn a living. They have lost hundreds of thousands of their animals due to the drought. But assistance provided by the Cash Transfer Project and a livestock off-take program are making a difference.
Cash Transfer Project
With this program, which has been used successfully in the past, the Kenyan Red Cross Society is currently supporting 3,447 households by giving them 3,000 Kenyan shillings (US$30/25 euros)) per month. The present project will run for a period of five months (September 2017 — January 2018) and is funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). This assistance enables the drought-affected communities across Samburu to purchase much-needed food from the local markets, which has had an impact on reducing malnutrition levels in the area. It also feeds money back into the local economy.
Livestock off-take program
With thousands of animals dying from the drought, the scheme was introduced in a bid to stop the wasteful death of livestock and use local resources to feed people. The program, which is funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Kenyan government, and international donors, involves buying livestock, which are then slaughtered and used to feed the families who previously owned the animals.
Maurice Onyango told DW how the drought has affected the Samburu people, and how the program works: "Through funds from FAO we are able to buy livestock and do destocking, which is especially useful with regard to the weak livestock. We then give the animals as meat for nutritional support at a household level. The communities around Samburu are mainly agro-pastoral communities and their livelihood depends on livestock. By buying animals that are likely to die anyway, we provide funds so that these people can restock their herds. This is how we are supporting communities through the current drought situation in Samburu."
Pierce Simpki, head of the livestock sector at the FAO, believes the program has been successful. "It has been very impressive. Yesterday we were watching 25 animals being slaughtered in one village and the meat being distributed to 75 households, which is sufficient to cover their protein needs. So there has been a two-month period where people have been receiving sufficient protein from their own livestock — which is vital. It's not us shipping in protein or food, it's making use of local resources. It has been very much appreciated and it has had a major impact," he said.
Local resident, Henry Leyanangwesa, told DW how the program has had a positive impact on his family: "First I want to say that this destocking project by the Red Cross has really helped us a lot. After two months with nothing to eat, my children have now received nutritious food. When I sold my goat, I was able use that money to buy fortified maize flour. And because I have goat meat to cook, I could use it to enjoy my Ugali meal. But because of the drought we have no milk, which means there is no milk to drink with the Ugali. But fortunately, through this project, I get to eat meat, even if there is no milk. The drought has been terrible, so we are very grateful for the assistance we have received."