Kenya: Burning up Mandera

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Joyce Chimbi
July 19, 2011

The heat is intolerable although it is barely noon, by three O’clock in the afternoon it is usually so hot that people rarely venture outside for fear of been stricken by the much feared heat stroke.

This is Mandera, North Eastern Kenya, a hard ship area, a region characterized by persistent dry spells and temperatures of above 40 degrees Celsius; an arid region whose main source of livelihood is livestock in spite of the inconsistent rainfall.

Although dry spells are not new to this region, the situation has worsened in recent years similar to many parts of the world as a reflection of the Global severe climatic changes.

Woman fetches water to drink from a dirty well that has been scotched to near dryness in Mandera

“In Mandera, the situation has further been complicated by our lifestyle, the over-dependence on livestock has made it difficult for the region to sustain any form of vegetation,” explains the District Vet nary Officer Dr Abdirahman S. Abdalla.
“With an estimated population of one million livestock, the animals naturally clear any vegetation in sight and when there is nothing more to feed on, some of them will succumb to the food scarcity as we struggle to sustain what has always been our lifeline.”

Mandera experiences an average of 250-255 Millimeters rainfall which in a year, and based on its two rainy seasons of long rains between April and May followed by short rains between October and November, averages to about 800-850 Millimeters.

“These seasons have recently become drastically unpredictable as has the amount of water the people depend on when it rains,” Dr Abdirahman S. Abdalla.

The problem of insufficient water in the region is further compounded by an over-dependence of the people on the rivers in the region which are also seasonal and highly unpredictable.
Take River Daua for instance; a river that feeds two countries which border each other, Kenya and Ethiopia, during the rainy seasons the river fills up to its banks posing a double-edged situation.

While on one hand it provides the much needed and clean drop of water, it also becomes a life threatening situation due to its infestation with crocodiles that are responsible for loss of life among both human beings and livestock.

“Annually, about 10 people lose their lives after being attacked by crocodiles, they(crocodiles) are vicious and have all sort of tricks which enable them to ambush unsuspecting people and animals,” says the region’s Drug Management Officer , Adan Abdi Mohamed.

“However, we recently discovered that crocodiles dislike noise because in areas where we have set up pump sets for irrigation, the population of crocodiles is significantly low. Pump sets might be part of the solution to the threat posed by crocodiles but they are too expensive for the people.”

Although Mandera may appear to be an extreme scenario, to imagine that regions across the world are not experiencing severe weather conditions due to the equally severe global warming would be a fallacy.

At the moment, millions across the world are at the blink of starvation and the situation is bound to get worse if discourse on climatic changes is not accorded the priority and prominence that it deserves.

Although in Kenya there is a tree planting day set aside for people to plant a tree with the objective of improving the environment, it has not been embraced with the vigor and zeal which should characterize such a day particularly in light of the difficult times that we are currently facing where millions of Kenyans are battling with famine.

However, in spite of this grim picture, all is not lost, if urgent interventions could be put in place, we could very well save the day.

Some of these interventions, a part from planting trees, would be to have strong policies against deforestation as well as for governments to find ways to settle the ever growing population which has continued to encroach on forested areas.

There is also need for the Media to consistently set the public agenda around the need to arrest the conditions destructive to our environment and which negatively influence climatic changes because unless people begin to talk about it, very little action, if any, can be generated towards normalizing the climate.

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