Wednesday, May 06, 2009


NEW YORK, May 6 - The Kenyan pastoral community has spoken out on the second day of an International UN forum complaining of neglect by the government. Wilfred Ole Ondugo, representing the pastoralists, on Tuesday accused the respective Members of Parliament of failure to address their plight.

“The government has ignored the livestock sector and when we try to tell them they don’t want to listen to us. Like now a lot of livestock has died because of the drought,” said Mr Ole Ondugo.

Speaking to Capital News at the UN headquarters in New York, Mr Ole Ondugo however expressed optimism that airing their concerns at the meeting would ensure their voice was heard. Heifer International Kenya Country Director, Alex Kirui, concurred with the sentiments and said the livestock sector was faced with numerous challenges such as inaccessible financial services like credit to the pastoralists, poor infrastructure as well as in the regulatory and public services like veterinary and quality assurance.

“We have some policies which are really old and are not conducive to the current environment but the government with support from the private sector and farmers is now developing livestock policies,” Mr Kirui said.

“Livestock contributes significantly to the livelihoods of more than 80 percent of the population,” he added.

Kenya's Northern Province which is composed of four districts, Garissa, Ijara, Mandera and Wajir inhabited by Somalis together with Turkana. Massai, Rendille, Boran and Samburu Tribes keep most of the livestock in Kenya. A large portion of northern Kenya is either semi-arid or arid. The inhabitants of North Eastern Region, such as the Somali, rely on Livestock activities and the government is expected to assist them as much as possible. Just recently, The Ministry of Northern Kenya meant to assist communities in NEP Kenya was instituted. The budget allocated to the ministry is just too small to address anything on livestock. The nearest national abbatoir KMC is situated hundreds of kilometres in another province and logistics and transport is a problem. NEP people keep camels, cattle, sheep and goats and depend on animal products such as milk and meat for their livehood. To them, livestock is their ultimate livelihood and these are the people the forum need to address.

At the same time, a Nairobi-based International NGO expressed concern over the vulnerability of women especially in pastoral communities. Indigenous Information Network Executive Director, Lucy Mulenkei said the women pastoralists suffer security threats when there is drought because of resource competition.

“They suffer more because they are left to feed the children when men leave with cattle to look for greener pastures,” she said.

“With the frequent droughts and climatical changes we have had, we have seen that there are meager resources and they (women) tend to be even more vulnerable when it comes to security and trying to survive at the same time,” she added.

She said although the government was taking some steps, they took too long to implement. Ms Mulenkei said the organisation would push for the recognition of local communities in policy making at the ongoing Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)meeting in New York.

“There should be participation from the communities and their rights should be considered that they are there and they should be consulted when those policies are being made for them to be effective,” she said.