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

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid