accessibility & help

Ali and Ismails story This is the worst drought I have seen

As the severe drought causes misery for millions around the Horn of Africa, there are examples of how longer-term investment can help people survive the harder times.

Through previous droughts over the last decade, many pastoralists in north-east Kenya, near the border with Somalia, have lost their animals and livelihoods.

In the village of Madogo, the Red Cross has been working since the drought of 2009 to develop and strengthen an existing farm community. Seventy per cent of animals in the area had died in the drought of 2005.

Improving farm irrigation

Man cutting down crops© InfoThe Kenya Red Cross and Japan Red Cross have developed new irrigation channels to make sure the farms get water at least once a day from the nearby Tana River. The Red Cross also provided a water pump run by a generator to increase the farmers’ productivity and income.

Now the farmers, many of whom are former pastoralists who have lost their herds through drought, grow crops such as bananas, mangoes, papayas, tomatoes and maize. They also cut down trees that are harmful to the arable land and burn them to make charcoal which they then sell.

Today about 1,800 families live off these 33 farms, in an otherwise very dry area.

Finding new livelihoods

Ali Abdi, 60, is a former pastoralist from Wagir. He lived off his livestock but they were depleted slowly through droughts in the last decade.

“Now I grow tomatoes, maize, bananas and mangoes,” he says. “It is not enough to fully support the whole family but it is a great help.”

He earns around 1,000 shillings (£6-7) every two weeks. His wife buys and sells produce at the market in Garissa, the nearby town, to contribute to the family income. They would like to expand the farm so that they can earn more. Abdi has six children aged between 14-25 and six grandchildren.

“This is the worst drought I have seen,” he says. “However, we have a good life compared to those who are pastoralists now. Those who live off their livestock have a very, very difficult time now.”

Living side by side

Ismail, 40, has four children, and a similar story to Ali.

He says: “[What we earn from farming] is not enough for us, but it is much better than it used to be. We are all former pastoralists here, but from different tribes. Usually there is a little bit of conflict between the tribes for access to feeding areas for the animals, but here with the farms we are no longer in conflict. Everybody lives side by side regardless of which tribe one is from, and that is good.”

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