Pastoralists' plight in focus at Cop 28 intervention

A man moves his cows to higher grounds at Ombaka village in Nyando, Kisumu County, after the area flooded. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Three people have so far lost their lives in Marsabit due to the ongoing floods as a result of El Nino.

Roads have been cut off, and there are no signs that the woes facing the pastoral communities in arid and semi-arid areas will end soon.

In 2022, drought in Marsabit County led to a devastating loss of 70 percent of livestock for pastoral communities.

This catastrophe left hundreds of locals grappling with hunger and starvation.

Marsabit County boss, Mohamud Ali, spoke at a side event during the climate talks in Dubai, UAE, highlighting the plight of pastoralists: “Chance like this COP28 offers an opportunity to tell the world how pastoralists are affected so they can get help.”

Ali stressed that the pastoral communities in frontier counties feel abandoned and emphasised the government’s failure to prioritize livestock, saying, “Up to now, the central government has given a lot of attention to other crops such as maize, pyrethrum, and coffee, not livestock, despite the potential it offers.”

The governor noted that there has been some relief as the rains receded in the past three days.

Ali said at the same time that CS Defense Aden Duale had promised to provide a KDF chopper to help with food distribution to the needy.

He said there is a need for the state to put more investments into the sector, saying it has potential and that 90 percent of the Marsabit residents are pastoralists.

Ali said that out of the over 120 million livestock keepers across the globe, 50 percent come from Africa.

Despite the potential they have, pastoralists are still reeling from a myriad of challenges.

“They have not been given adequate attention, and therefore they do not have strong markets. Value addition is something we need to talk about,” Ali said.

While appealing to the state to put more resources in the sector, Ali said there is a need for the community to change their behaviour.

“Because of climate change, we need to invest in civic education so that our people can be able to appreciate the number of needs, the kind of breed they need to keep, the improvements that need to be made, the strategic markets that are available, and the value addition and value chain that need to be enhanced.”

The suffering of the Marsabit pastoralists comes even as experts call for the expansion of early warning systems to protect lives and livelihoods.

At least 43 cattle, 744 sheep, 1706 goats, 382 poultry, and one camel have succumbed to extreme cold weather in the counties of Isiolo, Kilifi, Mandera, Marsabit, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Homa Bay, and Lamu.

Government spokesperson Isaac Mwaura. Mwaura added that 160 Kenyans have lost their lives, and over 529,000 people from 105,824 households have been displaced due to the ongoing flooding.

Governor Ali, advocating for his county at CoP28, remarked, “This is the best opportunity for the county of Marsabit to be here on the global platform to talk about issues affecting the pastoralists.”

He urged for global advocacy to focus on pastoral communities and their opportunities for better animal husbandry.