Kenya: Turkana Herders Struggle to Survive in Cycle of Droughts, Floods

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For nearly a decade, herders in Kenya's arid northwest have depended on cash payments from the government to withstand a cycle of recurring severe droughts and floods. But herders say the payments don't always arrive on time, and climate change is making it harder for them to maintain their livelihood.

Droughts last year followed by heavy floods this year killed thousands of animals in the region.

Philip Lopili, who has been herding sheep and goats for more than 60 years in Kenya's dry northwest Turkana County, says he lost 114 animals last year. Turkana's climate has changed for the worse, he added, and rainy seasons no longer arrive every six months, as they once did.

Herder Ruth Akiru says it's not just humans who are suffering.

When the trees dry up, the goats start dying, she said, adding that when the goats lack food, it also becomes harder for humans to survive.

Kenya in 2012 introduced cash payments to help herders affected by extreme weather from global warming.

But the herders in Turkana say the money doesn't always come when needed.

Kenya's National Droughts Management Authority says it lacks the money to help all the herders who are struggling.

"We know what we are doing, we know where we are going," said James Oduor, chief executive of the agency. "But because of resources, we are a bit slow to achieve what we want. So resource is a big, big problem."

In the meantime, herders like Akiru and Lopili can only wait for more support and hope for less extreme weather.

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