News / Africa

Drought Threatens Turkana Way of Life in Kenya

Kenya's Turkana region shows effects of severe drought affecting Horn of Africa (file photo)
Kenya's Turkana region shows effects of severe drought affecting Horn of Africa (file photo)
Joe DeCapua

The Turkana region of Kenya is one of the areas hit hardest by drought in the Horn of Africa. A relief organization says while indigenous people are receiving emergency supplies to survive, their traditional way of life may be dying.

Livestock are at the heart of the Turkana culture.  It’s been that way since ancient times. Pastoralists tend their animals in a region that was already dry and hot even before the severe drought took hold.

But the drought has changed their way of life, according to Don Golden of World relief, a Christian-based aid organization.

“That’s the story of an indigenous people group that has managed to resist dominance from the Brits and now from the Kenyans and to maintain their pastoral, nomadic, sort of, individualistic way of life. But through many factors, that way of life if fading. And so you have really the demise, not only of women and children in the immediate, but the whole culture. And aid is actually accelerating the process of demise for the Turkana,” he said.

No choice

He said it takes something drastic for the Turkana people to give up their pastoralist ways and move into settled communities.

“When their animals are dying and then their people start dying, and they see that one of the major aid agencies or the World Food Program is handing out food somewhere, they can give up - give up their whole way of life and basically just become beggars in these little IDP [internally displaced people] camps. And that’s unfortunately what we saw,” he said.

Young girl in Kenya's Turkana region.
Young girl in Kenya's Turkana region.

Golden said while emergency aid is needed now, action should be taken to find long-term solutions. Solutions that would allow the Turkana to better cope with drought.

“We could begin right away, looking at boreholes. We could begin looking at irrigation projects. There’s a range of things we could do. But absolutely we have to feed hungry mouths today,” he said.

Respecting a culture

World Relief is working with Kenyan churches to provide food assistance and health services.  It’s also working to dig more boreholes, which cost about $20,000 apiece.

“To dig a borehole is to create a community. And will that be a community of disempowerment? Will it be a community that’s totally dependent? Or will you have involved the local community in that process? [Will you have] empowered them with solutions about how to integrate their livestock and elements of their nomadic lifestyle into a settled community?” he asked.

Golden said digging a borehole is not simply a matter of drilling for water. It’s also a matter of being sensitive to the culture of the Turkana.

“If you just think people need water and you dig a borehole and you end up creating in effect thousands of people gathering and waiting to be fed, then you’ve got another disaster. Your intervention into one disaster creates a second disaster. Whereas, what needs to happen is a careful conversation with the local leaders, our Kenyan church partners, on solutions that they have. Where would they put a well if they could dig one? How would they manage it? What role would their current livestock play in their community? Those are the kind of questions and it’s just so much more complex,” he said.

The World Relief official said if solutions are not found in Kenya’s Turkana region quickly, it could very well become a famine area like parts of Somalia.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid