According to the leaders, although farmers were planting, the people will still need relief aid for two months – at least—before the arrival of the first harvest. At the same time, the leaders were remaining anxious given their experience in the past, with too little rain to sustain the crops into harvest.
“Our hearts are much lighter following the start of the rains. If it continues, in two weeks or so, there will be some pasture for livestock,” said Bishop Johnes Ole Meliyio of the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church. “The people will, however, have to wait for two months.
“Some are trying to plant, but they do not have enough seeds. Some are even reducing the size of land they want to plant,” added the bishop.
A severe drought, which scientists describe as the worst in 40 years, has been gripping the Horn of Africa countries, including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.
Here, the leaders and their experts hope the drought will accelerate the search for solutions to the global climate crisis at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh.
In Kenya, it has hit arid and semi-arid regions in the north, northeastern and southeastern, the homeland of both agro-pastoralist and nomadic-pastoralist communities.
“The situation in the northeast is very bad. We appreciate the government’s efforts to provide relief food and water to the people, but this is just a drop in the sea,” said Anglican Bishop David Mutisya of Garissa.
In November, the government and agencies reported the number of people needing aid due to the drought crisis were increasing. Then, the authorities said the numbers had reached 4.35 million people. An estimated 2.4 million livestock, the mainstay for nomadic pastoralist communities, had also died in the drought. The loss of livelihood had triggered conflict among the communities, with those displaced moving to urban centres or areas where they can find food.
“The people are hungry, people need water and because their economy is seriously affected, some are not able to take their children to school,” said the bishop, while explaining that heads of education institutions in northeastern Kenya were having to decide whether to keep schools open or shut them down due to the drought situation.
Weighing possible solutions, the bishops separately agree that availing enough and sustainable water to the communities can solve the food crisis.
“We can’t bank on rain water since the rains are too unreliable,” said Mutisya. “We need several boreholes drilled in the villages. Rainwater harvested in tanks and dams can act as further support.”
He explained that in areas on the edge of Tana River, where the church has built water tunnels and pumped water into villages, 20 groups had become lead suppliers of food in nearby markets and towns.
While also stressing boreholes, Ole Meliyio urged the strengthening of environmental care, especially the protection of forests, by making alternative sources of energy affordable.
“I have regretfully seen loads of charcoal being transported to market centres and towns. Burning of charcoal destroys forests and harms our environment. I think the government needs to take environmental care more seriously and ban practices like these one,” said the bishop.