Turkana elders turn to goat intestines to predict rains as drought persists

Two ceremonies were carried out in a span of 48 hours, perhaps indicating the desperation in seeking answers. [Photo, Standard]

It is mid-morning in the ‘Cradle of Mankind’ and a resident gently pulls a goat to a waiting gathering of men – the council of elders.

There will be no meat-eating ceremony today. Instead, the elders from Kerio, also known as Emurons, are more interested in the animal’s intestines.

The old men will spear the blemish-free goat through the heart, open its belly and expose its innards. They will then closely scrutinise the intestines for information related to the weather, diseases and even death.

Two ceremonies were carried out in a span of 48 hours, perhaps indicating the desperation in seeking answers on when the drought that has gripped Turkana and other arid and semi-arid regions is expected to end.

In a rare show of unity, scientists and traditionalists teamed up to compare notes and see if their weather predictions would match.

The first exercise was conducted on March 14 on the outskirts of Lodwar town, while the second event took place on Saturday at Eliye springs in Turkana.

And after both ceremonies, the elders made similar predictions on when rains would start pounding the region. In an interesting twist, the ‘readings’ from the intestines of the black and brown goats matched results compiled by Mr Francis Muinda, the director in charge of the county Meteorological Department.

Prediction exercise

Ngasike Akut Ekuye and his counterpart, Pedo Ibolo Iluk, oversaw the entire exercise. Before the ceremony, the elders use tobacco, which they say is one way of communicating with the forefathers.

“When you look at the gate of Turkana County, it is evident that we will receive rains two days to April. The peak will be in April,” said Mr Ekuye.

He added: “The rains will pound the regions of Turkana North, South and Loima. We see locals moving from areas that will receive minimal amounts of water such as the East to areas with adequate rains in order to benefit from water and pasture for their animals.”

Ekuye also predicted that there would be an outbreak of animal diseases. “Diseases such as foot and mouth will hit most of the areas hard. The disease will begin spreading towards the end of this month.”

According to the elders, the rains will cause Lake Turkana to ‘fill up’ due to heavy inflows from local rivers. In their predictions, they termed April as ‘muddy’.

In an advisory, they cautioned locals living near river banks to move to higher grounds in order to protect against loss of lives and property.

During Saturday’s ceremony, another group of elders said the region should brace for rains ‘after the two moons meet’. This, they clarified, meant the end of March.

The elders also predicted there would be fewer fights between different communities because more pasture means more food for everyone.

“We do not expect our people to fall sick because they will have enough water and their animals will be healthy enough to provide milk for them,” said Mr Iluk.

According to the Met Department, the elders’ predictions closely matched data the scientists had been gathering from their weather stations.

“It is good that the information available in our office is similar to what the elders, who are respected in society, found. Turkana will receive rains, which will signify the end of the current drought,” said Mr Muinda.

Own results

In his analysis, most wards in Turkana will get rainfall with amounts ranging from between 50 and 150 millilitres. Border areas are expected to get between 150 and 250ml of rain.

They include Kalobeyei, Letea, Lokiriama, Loima, Kapedo, Kibish, Kaputir, Lokichoggio, Nanam, Lake Zone, Lapur, Kaaleng, Kalokol, Katilia, Township, Kangatosa and Lobokat.

“Kerio ward in Turkana Central will get the least amount of rain (0-43ml) with Kibish getting the highest (249-300ml). It is good when the locals also conduct their own predictions so that they can own the results,” said Muinda.

He added that the analysis conducted at the ward level was important for advising residents and county officials on the calamities to expect and the crops to plant.

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