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Desperate locals feeding animals with cartons as drought worsens

By Beldeen Waliaula | Jan 25th 2022 | 3 min read

The damage the prolonged drought has left behind in North Horr, Marsabit County?. [Courtesy]

The smell of decomposing carcasses cut through our masks as we came face to face with the damage the prolonged drought has left behind in North Horr, Marsabit County. 

Maikona location has no sign of vegetation as the region has not received enough rainfall for years.

“The area has not received good rainfall for years. By last week Friday, more than a thousand cattle had perished because of drought, we do not have the exact figure on the number of sheep and goats that have died but it is above 2,000,” says Peter Ochieng, the assistant County Commissioner.

If there were gods to be worshipped and enticed to bring forth rain, residents of this area would offer all forms of sacrifices to them. Most of them have to walk for miles in search of water.

A similar scenario plays out in Hurr Hills, where locals have nothing left to cling to. Some blame poor information flow for the predicament they find themselves in. 

 “If weather focus people could have told us early there would be no rain for three years, then we would have sold our cattle,” says George Galgalo, a resident of Hurr Hills.

“The situation here is dire. Even hospitals have no water,” says Mohammed Shariff.

Some traders have taken advantage of the situation and get livestock from residents in exchange for water.

A 10,000 litre lorry is now going for Sh25,000, explains George Galgalo.

The demand for cartons has seen the price rise forcing pastoralists to dig deeper into their pockets. [Courtesy]

“Now our camels are on the verge of dying, we take them to take water on the Ethiopian border. There you can’t go at night. Cows stay for 10 days before getting water and camels 12 days,” says Mamabudho Wario.

When dawn breaks in North Horr, men prepare to leave in search of a different kind of pasture.

Cartons cut into pieces are the only available option for Godhana Sharam to feed his remaining cattle. 

He says he had 300 cows but 200 have since perished. 

The demand for cartons has seen the price rise forcing Godhana and other pastoralists to dig deeper into their pockets. He needs more than one sack of shredded pieces of carton to feed his livestock daily. 

Once the source of wealth and pride, the animals are proving to be a real headache for Godhana and his family.

“The cows are even destroying our manyatta and feeding on the clothes that we use to cover our manyatta and they end up dying because they block their excretory system.

Before my animals would be worth millions of money but that is no longer the case. Now they are worthless. We can’t eat them or sell them. No one wants to buy emaciated cattle, they don’t produce milk, meat, or blood,” Godhana adds.

Camels are known as the cars of the desert. Their adaptation to the climate marked by large feet, thick skin, and even toes make them endure harsh and dry conditions. 

The drought-stricken pastoralists need more than one sack of shredded pieces of carton to livestock daily. [Courtesy]

The young camels are being given porridge to stay alive.

Residents say one can only tell the severity of the drought when camels start dying.

The Daasanach community which occupies Illeret region that borders Lake Turkana has not been spared either. 

Despite the livestock taking the saline water from the lake, they often die on the way back due to their frail bodies as there is no pasture in the region.

“Livestock is our livelihood and they are all gone, there is no hope things will change anytime soon,” says Galgalo Duye.

 Some residents opt to burn the carcasses to put their misery in the past.

 Traditionally, men in this community do not linger around their homesteads. Instead, they move far and wide, in search of pasture for their livestock.

Livestock is their pride. Now, with no cows nor goats to nurse their egos, they are confused, afraid and lost. Signs of depression are becoming evident as they reel in their loss. The cowsheds are empty.

Women and children are the ones bearing the brunt of this drought. Many young ones below five appeared malnourished.

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