Where goat intestines predict rains, raids, drought, diseases
HEALTH & SCIENCEBy SAADA HASSAN | Mon,Jun 14 2021 07:00:00 EATBy SAADA HASSAN | Mon,Jun 14 2021 07:00:00 EAT
The Turkana do not have to rely on the Kenya Meteorological Department for weather Apps to know when it will rain, the onset of the cold season or when to migrate livestock during drought.
It all starts with Agata, a prayer to the gods to prevent calamities and bestow good tidings. This is followed by Edonga, a traditional dance, to usher in the goat slaughtering ceremony called Akritet, and for which women dressed in Abwo, the long skin dress stemming at the back to the ground, dance gracefully, the Ngakoromwa - the beads on their necks, rising to the tunes,.
Men, spotting the Ngakopir headgear, lead the chorus, while elders from eight villages, bedecked in caps, white and brown ostrich feathers, follow proceedings seated on Ekicholog, the traditional stool.
Once the goat is slaughtered, the intestines are removed. Ngathike Aruman, an elder, then explains that the intestines are their “bible”. “We believe that everything done on earth is recorded in the intestines of a goat. When you observe it, you can tell of many occurrences, past and future,” the leader tells The Standard.
Meanwhile, no part of the slaughtered goat goes to waste.
On this day, the elders check the contours of the intestines frowning, others show no emotion, but shortly report that the western part of Turkana will experience rainfall in three weeks. For that reason “some of our animals will head to Loima and Lokichar areas due to the rains but they will not stay there for long,” says Joseph Etabo, the farmers’ representative.
From the intestines, elders can also predict forthcoming raids. “Our people will fight with the enemies around Kibich area and our animals will move to that side,” one announces.
Months among the Turkana follow cycles of the moon and besides weather patterns.
Besides, the intestines can also guide them during elections.
Naroongor Kasukou, another elder, predicts that “there will be three candidates for the General Election, and one will succeed, but will run away to Nairobi, forgetting his people, only to come back during the Christmas festivities.”
Current data from the Kenya meteorological department shows that the Northern Rift Valley and West Rift Valley will receive above-average rainfall, with temperatures slightly warmer than average for the next three consecutive months.
Josephat Lotwel is the Assistant Director Drought Contingency Planning and Response under the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) Turkana branch.
He says traditional methods of predicting the weather can be used alongside scientific ones. “The traditional ones concentrate more on the biophysical, which deals with rain and time frame, but the traditional method tells us more. It looks at rainfall, raids, flooding areas, diseases; both human and livestock, and pasture conditions, which helps in migration.”
Dennis Mosioma, the assistant director Drought Information under NDMA, says predictions from indigenous methods are vital. “During normal phases, NDMA guides the Turkana with advisories in resilience building, stuff like digging of boreholes and restocking of livestock,” he says.
This is besides the early dissemination of information to the communities to help in mitigating disasters.
Teddy Oracho, the Programmes Officer at Child Fund Kenya, says blending of culture and science in weather predictions has enabled farmers to access early information and decide on when to plant, besides disaster risk reduction through enhanced preparedness of government and communities in response.
Besides farmers, fishermen are also alerted on looming floods “to stay away from the banks of Lake Turkana and avoid deaths,” says Oracho.
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