No Excuse For Hunger, Death In Turkana

Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 00:00 -- BY SANTETO OLE TIAMPATI

Kenya is among the community of nations that in 2000 committed to a blueprint acceded the world’s countries and the world’s leading development institutions to the realization of the eight (8) United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that range from halving extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.

The current horrifying reports of thousands of Turkana children skipping school due to escape hunger and over 5,000 Turkana pastoralist’s crossing over to Uganda in pursuit of their daily bread as well as souring rates of malnutrition must make every Kenyan curl with shame. It is common knowledge that indigenous peoples’ resident in the Kenya’s North live in alarming conditions of extreme poverty and marginalization despite the fact that next year (2015) Kenya is expected to have met its obligations under the MDGs especially halving extreme hunger and reducing child mortality. The obtaining reality puts this commitment by state into sharp perspective considering that the state has been submitting its progress reports to the United Nations regarding the implementation of MDGs.

The Kenyan Constitution under article 43 guarantees Kenyans economic and social rights which include the highest attainable standard of health as well as freedom form hunger and the right to adequate food of acceptable quality. The current situation in Turkana is in contravention of this constitutional prerogative and brings to sharp focus the inefficiency of the state in articulating pre-emptive measures to avert such crises as famines and drought.

Indeed, in the last government, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) was created whose main responsibilities are to develop and revise drought contingency plans, determine activities eligible for funding by the National Drought and Disaster Contingency Fund (NDDCF), approve drought contingency finance against the triggers in drought contingency plans, and ensures the accountable use of these funds by county and community-based drought management structures and to coordinate the implementation of all drought mitigation, emergency response, and recovery activities at national, county and community levels.

With the existence of the NDMA why did it have to take this long for the requisite interventions to be activated to address the first indications of drought in Turkana and elsewhere yet it is common knowledge with climate change droughts have become more frequent and most pastoralists counties are classified as high or medium risk areas? Did it have to get to crisis levels for the state agencies to react?

Indeed one of the contributing factors to poverty in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) is reactive as opposed to pre-emptive strategies which can be traced to the colonial era and the subsequent destruction of indigenous knowledge and interventions in the guise of modernization. From the colonial era, pastoralists and other indigenous communities’ narratives are replete with traumatic experiences with droughts, famines, and insecurity and healthcare interventions by the duty bearers. It is only a few years back when the face of a malnourished Turkana child was splashed globally as the face of Kenya’s hunger and destitution. The recurrent question therefore is: since droughts and famines are cyclical and therefore predictable; what measures have been put in place to ensure that no Kenyan succumbs to effects of hunger and drought? In fact, could mainstream development be regarded as one of the root causes of the myriad problems afflicting Kenya’s pastoralists and other marginalized communities?

One of the universal contributors to failed policies and projects is lack of community consultations and participation in designing and implementing policies and projects which directly affect their whole scope of lives. Indeed under article 56 of the constitution the state is obligated to put affirmative measures in place to ensure minorities and marginalized groups are represented in governance and other spheres of life and have reasonable access to water, health and infrastructure. To what extent has this been articulated in addressing decision making at drought and crises management and intervention levels?

Turkana is on the trajectory to becoming the largest contributor to the exchequer following the recent discovery of massive oil and water reserves. It is however ironic that, the resident communities are the prime victims of the vagaries of drought and famine. This goes to confirm the perception that in Kenya; communities within areas endowed with natural resources form the first casualties of poverty, development aggression, environmental destruction and takeover of territories with subsequent destruction of livelihoods and cultures as has been witnessed among indigenous peoples globally because of the lack of participation and consultations.

With this stark reality it will be interesting to see what kind of report the Kenya government shall present to the United Nations in 2015 on its achievement of the MDGs based on the reality on the ground especially in Kenya’s North where currently hunger is their daily bread and education remains a pipedream. The County governments should be strengthened and equipped to become the initial points of intervention in times of such calamities as droughts and famines.

No excuse for hunger

Santeto ole Tiampati is the National Coordinator: Pastoralist Development Network of Kenya

Pastoralists Must Resolve Conflicts

Decades long pastoralist conflicts and insecurity have had a devastating impact on the people, economy, development and environment. Pastoralist areas remain the least developed parts of Kenya. This is demonstrated by the glaring economic disparity compared with the rest of the country despite the fact that these areas host the country’s national livestock herd estimated to be worth 295.270 billion shillings according to a 2012 IGAD Livestock Policy Initiative study.

Combined with annual production of 552, 569, 224 litres of camel milk, 1,292, 844,288 litres of goat and sheep milk, 197 637,102,539 litres of cattle milk from semi-arid areas and 370,599,886 litres  from arid areas in addition to other products such as beef, mutton, hides, skins, butter, ghee, accessories (from hooves, bones and horns), leather wear, draught power, manure (estimated at  27.829 billion shillings) and employment at various stages, pastoralist economy contributes substantially to the national GDP which is the greater chunk of the 40% total livestock contribution.

However, despite the latent opportunities provided by livestock herds and the fact that these areas contribute immensely to the wildlife based tourism, mining and energy sectors, the persistent conflicts portray these lands as the theatre of slaughter, dispossessions and internal displacements which portend a major challenge to pastoralist county governors. Pastoralist conflicts and insecurity is further compounded by the porous nature of Kenya’s international borders and subsequent proliferation of an estimated 600,000 light weapons and small arms according to a Small Arms Survey Special Report of June 2012. The presence of Al Shabaab Terror group in Somalia, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and the Oromo Liberation Front in Ethiopia further complicates the situation.

This insecurity interrupts education, economic preoccupation and generally poses an obstacle for development. Beyond the physical effects, insecurity has negatively affected the inter-communal relations fuelling negative feelings and distrust towards neighbouring communities. This distrust decreases the motivation and the capability of the communities to choose a cooperative path which is a prerequisite for peaceful and effective resources sharing and reciprocity which should be addressed in a unified approach by the 14 pastoralist county governors.

Loss of human life, property, displacements of large segments of the communities, disruption of socio-economic activities and livelihoods, increased hatred between communities, environmental degradation and threat to water catchments areas, increased economic hardships as a result of loss of livelihoods, high levels of starvation and malnutrition among the displaced groups and unprecedented dependency syndrome on relief food are the main negative impacts of the increasing and severe inter-ethnic armed conflicts in Kenya’s pastoralist areas which requires concerted bilateral efforts by the national government, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Somali as well as affected county governors and senators.

Pastoralist county governments therefore have the herculean task of building synergies first as a team from affected counties to consolidate their efforts to prevent and mitigate violent conflicts by addressing each of the factors contributing to conflicts and insecurity and develop collective and effective actions to tackle the existing and emergent causes of conflict that target the actors who are mainly the youth.

By engaging directly with the pastoralist youth among the Turkana, Samburu, Pokot, Rendille, Gabbra, Borana, Somali among other communities involved and creating opportunities for other preoccupations through the Youth Enterprise Fund and Women Development Fund as well as other grants available both at the County and National levels, pastoralist governors can effectively undertake conflict prevention through the use of conflict prevention capacities of the communities involved and appeal for strengthened synergies between communities in order to take advantage of the benefits of peace which among others include development projects such as the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia transport corridor (LAPSSET) and tourism, mining, oil, gas, geothermal, wind and solar energy that are mainly targeting pastoralist counties. Pastoralists must resolve conflicts

Santeto Ole Tiampati is the National Coordinator of Pastoralist Development Network of Kenya

- See more at:Pastoralists must resolve conflicts


Pastoralist Development Network - of Kenya

We are an advocacy NGO established under a Trust deed number 791 DI 4453128 in 2003. The network is a conglomeration of 60 pastoralists’ individuals, NGOs and CBOs and non-pastoralist institutions and individuals supporting pastoralists’ development process in Kenya. It draws its membership from North Rift, South Rift, North Eastern and Upper Eastern regions of Kenya representing 14 pastoralist Counties. Its mission is to lobby for the inclusion of the pastoralist agenda in mainstream development with the vision of a prosperous pastoralist society.

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