Kenya was one of the countries that were hardest hit by the drought and the government declared the drought a national disaster in light of the worsening humanitarian crisis. The drought has since been attributed to consecutive rainfall failures in 2010 and 2011 in over 80% of the country which are classified as either Arid or Semi Arid areas (ASALs).
Isiolo County which forms part of the largest zones in east Kenya covers an area of 25.605 square kilometers and is classified as 100% ASAL. The area that is characterized by three climatic zones hosts among other groups the Borana, Somali, Samburu, Turkana and Meru. Following the drought, many people in Isiolo lost their livelihoods many of who claimed lost herds of animals, a possession that many value.
ActionAid through its resilience programme, started responding to the drought immediately and specifically in Isolo so as to support the community through a long term approach to build their resilience to drought and capacity to hold government accountable on key development issues.
Ann Mijioni, from Kambi Sheikh Village Isiolo faced the wrath of the drought. Ann notes that she was prepared and had the slightest clue on drought. The drought left her for suffering as she lost 40 goats and 10 cows. The mother of two had to move from her home in search of food.
"The famine was very tragic. I have never forgotten my animals, I depended on them for everything but I have since moved on because I have ventured into farming." says Ann
Many people in this area did not practice any form of farming but since ActionAid trained us on farming techniques and how to cope in times of drought people’s attitudes have changed.
It is evident from Ann’s farm that her lifestyle has changed for the better. Apart from the trainings that she received, Ann also received cowpeas, dolichos, green grams and sorghum seeds from ActionAid.
"Through the trainings, we have been taught how to plant drought tolerant seeds as well as farming techniques in drought prone areas. I have since dug zai pits (crop planting pits filled with compost manure mixed with top soil, which retain soil moisture) on my farm, and I am sure this method will help retain rain water and I will have a bounty harvest. I am hopeful that were another drought to hit, I will not be affected.” narrates Ann.
Though Ann Nyaruai cannot pin drought to her long term struggle of accessing food, water and other amenities she has only experienced drought in Isiolo by seeing how long people can suffer when they lose their animals and what it would mean to stay without meals.
The 51 year old lady says that having 36 dependants has not been easy in an area where rainfall has been known to be scarce. Through the ActionAid Programme, Ann says that she has become more aware of various farming methods and what kind of seeds to plant in a drought prone area.
I never cooked sorghum for my children and now they enjoy it.
Many people thought that sorghum is for the poor but we have now been trained on how to plant and cook it into a meal and advised that it is a plant which sustains very severe weather conditions and when planted, drought cannot leave people hungry.
“People in this area depended on relief food for a very long time, but when ActionAid ventured into training us the situation has since improved. Farming has been embraced and food is available but in earlier days many of us suffered.” narrates Nyaruai