Drought Decimates Kenyan Herders' Net Worth

camel turkana kenya africa drought photo
Camels are "like the bank for the Turkana." Photo by xikita via Flickr.

The global economic crisis has shattered many families' financial security as the value of investments plummet and jobs become vulnerable, or nonexistent. But in the rural Turkana district of northwest Kenya, the culprit robbing peoples' bank accounts is climate change.The worst drought since 1969 is "wreaking havoc" among the pastoralists who make their homes in this already harsh environment, the BBC reports. With their livestock dying, local residents are selling their weakened goats and camels for less than market price to the only potential buyer -- a European Union humanitarian program.

Livestock Losses and Raids
"For a Turkana to bring their goats to slaughter is like putting their life on the line," Kephas Indangasi of Vets Without Borders, the group that is implementing the program, told the BBC. "They get milk and meat from livestock and they sell the animals to buy other items and even pay school fees. Livestock is like the bank for the Turkana. They are losing their entire economy.... When they are slaughtering camels it is like throwing away the pension."

As herds dwindle, the number of livestock raids has soared. One in late September took the lives of 26 people. Faced with these increasing conflicts and dwindling prospects, many Turkana are abandoning their traditional lifestyles and moving to nearby towns to search for work. The life of a herder has just become too uncertain.

"We can no longer predict the rainfall patterns. Temperatures have also increased as well as diseases. And when rainfall comes we get floods," said Joseph Elim of the local non-governmental organization Riam Riam. "If that is what is called climate change then it is here with us now." Via: "Drought: Kenya's own banking crisis," BBC News
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