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Camels participate in pastoralist community advocacy trek as rains fail for two years

Story and pictures by Mary Mwendwa

Gofu with one of her camels during the trek 1

AHH AHHH AHHH,” are the only words she utters as her camels walk in a straight line in the scorching heat of Isiolo County, East of Kenya. While camels can retain water in their bodies for up to seven months, Gofu is not as lucky as her camel. Whereas we take water and rain for granted in the US and have access to it every day, in this part of Kenya, water is rare.

Dry shrubs with dry seasonal rivers and hills are what dot the landscape, from a distance few herders can be seen with goats and cows.

It is all dry and signs of rain are nowhere to be seen.

Hard water-less times, thinking solutions

Here, it has not rained for two years, livestock are dying because of lack of water and pasture, every day’s prayer is to see a drop of rain to save the situation.

Slim, dark and tall, in T-shirt scribbled with conservation message and a black scarf on her head, holding a stick in her hands, she quickly hits her camel on the back.

One of the camels is very stubborn; she must keep hitting and calling her to move; any small move of leaving the camel may be disastrous as the camel will run away and go back home.

This is none other than Morma Gofu, a mother of eight in her late 40s who is determined to trek all the way from Merti in Isiolo County for five days covering a distance of 250 km.

Through a translator she greets me, “Akam!”. This is the greeting in Borana language, to which I reply, “Dansa!”  (I’m fine).

Gofu vividly remembers how life was bearable when she was a young girl in Bulesa Location, Aredida Village.

Every drop of water counts for these pastoral communities

“Life was good then. We had many livestock, rivers were full of water. Ewaso Ng’iro River used to flood and there were many crocodiles. Now, the water is gone. People cross the river by walking and this is sad,’’ Gofu recalls in an interview with Tujipange KE.

“I decided to participate in this historic walk to raise awareness about Ewaso Ng’iro River and also peace. This river is our life line and day by day the waters are receding, making us more desperate. This has led to constant fights between us and our neighboring Samburu community,” she explains as she takes fast steps.

Gofu is not the only woman who is fighting by any means to build resilience on harsh climatic conditions that her counterparts are grappling with.

She was among 30 community members from the Borana tribe who trekked all the way from Merti in Isiolo to Archer’s Post where they converged with their counterparts from Laikipia and Samburu.

The trek dubbed ‘Camela Caravan’ also brought together private stakeholders, county and national government and other non-governmental organizations.

Their main mission was to promote and facilitate shared understanding of human–induced and climate threats facing the river, and cooperation between upstream and downstream users to mitigate these threats.

Borana women

Habiba Tadicha (in purple, above) is the chair of Biliko Bulesa Community Conservancy. Her story rings of resilience and determination as she vocally participates in the event. Despite being married at a very tender age and not going to school at all, she is still a force to reckon with in matters environment and is the only woman in Merti who gave an official speech during the caravan walk.

Fatuma Abduba, a mother of five and grandmother of three, shares a similar story to Gofu’s. She owns five camels at her home in Kubi Matamuka Village, Merti District, Isiolo County.

She observes that every day, their lives are threatened with drought and that is why they are walking to send a message to leaders and other community members about the current state of Ewaso Ng’iro River.

Although women are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, they can also be important change agents

‘‘Camels are highly resistant to drought and rarely need water. They are also friendlier to women.”

Although women are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, they can also be important change agents at household and community level in regard to natural resource management.

Their knowledge on issues and expertise ideally places them as the best agents to deliver climate change and adaptation information.

During a brief ceremony to flag off the walk, speaker after speaker talked about the need to embrace peace and help spread the message of conservation.

Habiba Tadicha, chairlady Biliko Bulesa Community Conservancy noted with a lot of concern how conflict with their neighboring Samburu Community had caused havoc among pastoralists in the area. “Our natural resources are reducing day by day because of erratic climatic conditions and therefore we need to consider ways to cope and adapt. Ewaso Ng’iro is our only saviour and for that reason those using the water upstream need to consider downstream users.”

Community resolves 2-year rain failure

Abdulahi Shande, Merti Integrated development programme (MID – P) Director and Founder of Camel Caravan told Tujipange KE, “We sat down and thought about what we could do together as a community in terms of projects and we settled on the caravan idea. The first caravan was in 2013 where the main agenda was Ewaso Ng’iro and construction of a dam at the river. We were not involved in the plan and designing of the dam – Laikipia, Samburu, Borana. So, we blocked the whole idea of the dam.”

“The second time was about conservation and we added issues of the girl child. We wanted the girl child to be given the same opportunity as the boy.  We were saying a child is a child and they deserve same opportunities. We wanted the girl child to attend school. 2015 and 2016 was a time of reflection.” Shande notes.

Shande says that because 2017 was a year of elections it came in handy to incorporate peace agenda together with Ewaso Ng’iro during the caravan.

“The camel caravan has now become an important event in this region and our aim is to see it have international recognition.” He signs off.






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