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Drought-hit Mandera county in northwestern Kenya struggles amid worst drought in decades

Hasan Huseyin Kosger
Saturday December 3, 2022

Mandera, home to approximately 1.2M, depends on livestock, riverine farming

MANDERA, Kenya- The residents of Mandera, Kenya's northeastern-most county bordering Ethiopia and Somalia, are struggling for the survival of their animals and themselves as the region continues to reel due to the worst drought in decades.

Home to approximately 1.2 million people who generally depend on their livestock and riverine farming, Mandera has lacked significant rainfall for the last six years.

Locals say that most of the rivers originating from the Ethiopian highlands have dried up and that adjacent basins that were used as farmland just half a decade ago have become completely unusable.

Manderans said that in addition to agricultural lands, pastures where animals graze have also suffered from the drought. The area has received no rainfall so far this rainy season, which ends in December, they have said, fearing that if conditions do not improve over the next few months, all their animals will perish.

Drought empties villages

Libehiya is one of the villages hit hardest by the drought. As life continues to get harder, locals are facing the stark reality that they may need to emigrate to other lands.

Animal carcasses dot pastures all around the village due to the lack of grass and ongoing severe drought. As the river that once flowed around their homes has completely dried up, villagers have started drawing both their cleaning and drinking water, as well as the water they give their animals, from the local well.

Residents said that because there was no grass left in the pastures, they started looking after their animals at home, feeding them the rice and maze they eat themselves, despite the unsustainable expense.

All kinds of agricultural products were grown in the fertile soil of Mandera, which received normal rainfall until about five years ago.

Muhamed Ali, the county's water minister, told Anadolu Agency that while people did not want to leave their homes, they lost 11 billion Kenyan shillings ($88 million) in herding over the past several years due to the drought.

"Of the 200 small lakes we use for livestock, 63 have dried up. Animals are dying, as you can see, there are animal carcasses everywhere. Just one of our neighbors here lost 500 goats," he said, adding that it was dangerous to drink water in some regions due to the difficult living conditions, with residents fearing the spread of new contagious diseases in addition to those already present in the region.

Ali said that they hoped the Turkish government and people would extend a helping hand for dredging and the extraction of groundwater.

"Sometimes, we incur great economic losses by digging wells only by estimation. We also hope they to send us the technical machinery and drill bits required for open wells. The next five months are vital and we expect Türkiye will help us in the fields of health, agriculture, and livestock."


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