Kenya: livestock farmers affected by drought receive a helping hand from the Red Cross, through a destocking exercise

Published: 19 January 2017 13:35 CET

By Florence Ogola, Kenya Red Cross 

As drought bites harder in Kenya, affected communities have been losing their cattle. As part of its response, the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) has embarked on an exercise that aims to destock weak cattle by buying cows, goats and sheep from willing pastoralists, at an agreed price of 15,000 Kenya shillings (141 US dollars) per cow; and 5,000 Kenya shillings (48 US dollars) for goats and sheep.


The Kenya Red Cross then uses the purchased animals to produce meat that is distributed to vulnerable households.


The exercise, which has so far taken place in the North Eastern and Coast regions, kicked off in December 2016.


Among the people who have benefited from this programme is 22-year-old Shukry Abdullahi, a resident of Dukanotu village, in Tana River county.


“The beef I have received today will feed my household for at least three days,” Abdullahi said. “You know, my co-wife died last year and left behind six children who are currently under my care,” she added. Abdullahi has ten children in her household, three of whom are under the age of five.


The ongoing drought has affected more than 1.3 million people in the arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya, with more than 21,000 people currently in need of food assistance.


Eight counties are at the “alarm stage”, namely: Garissa, Lamu, Kilifi, Kwale, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu and Tana River. The drought situation has affected not just the human population but the livestock population as well, with a mortality rate of five per cent. The rate of malnutrition has also risen to a level of 15 per cent, which is considered critical.


Shukry has lost four of her eight goats as a result of the drought and is afraid that if nothing much is done to support the communities affected, the situation will get worse. “My husband is unemployed and so we depend a lot on our cattle for our livelihood,” she added.


It is estimated that over 14 per cent of the population in Tana River county depend on livestock for income and food. These communities value their cattle and consider them a critical financial asset providing food (milk, meat and eggs) and income (through sale, barter, transport, draught power and work hire).


They are also a significant social asset playing a key role in building and consolidating social relationships and networks within traditional social groups.


The destocking exercise is aimed at removing the affected animals before they become emaciated, lose their value, die or pose a risk of public health.


The programme enables pastoralists to salvage some capital from their livestock at risk, support families with cash to meet their food needs and other basic necessities, relieve pressure on scarce water and pasture resources, protect their livelihoods and strengthen the community’s ability to recover from the short and long effects of the drought.


Direct beneficiaries include the most vulnerable, mainly orphans, people living with disability, the elderly and the chronically ill.


In November 2016, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal of 3.8 million Swiss francs to support the KRCS in assisting 114,620 people affected by drought. Interventions focus on health and care, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, nutrition, food security and disaster risk reduction. The Appeal is currently 14 per cent funded.