“I remember how things were when I was a child. We used to roll on the grass when we played and liked to chase each other on our way to the river to fetch water. Now, that remains but a memory!”
Rael Kitilit is a resident of Ol-Mukutan in Baringo County in Kenya.
Rains in the area have been failing and residents of Ol-Mukutan, most of them being small-scale farmers and pastoralists, are experiencing effects of severe drought.
The mother of 10 recalls with nostalgia the covers of green grass she used to take her family’s goats to graze when she was a little girl, something her young children might not be able to experience as the grass is all dried up.
“The rains were never late. We would receive the initial short rains in the month of February and March and with the rains, we planted our food and had plenty of pasture for our animals.”
This year, as has been the developing pattern over the last few years in Ol-Mukutan, there has not been any rainfall and effects of this dry spell are visible all over.
Rivers that once flowed steadily are now completely dry with nothing but debris. The forest is a skeleton of its former self and the trees are dry with no leaves on them. The grass and vegetation that once covered the ground are not there, the ground is dusty. The sun is scorching hot and even the cactus-the desert plant- is beginning to dry up.
Effects of climate change in Ol-Mukutan, like the prolonged drought and emergence of strange livestock diseases are threatening the livelihoods of the communities living there. The severity of this situation is sparing no one. Communities and animals are scrambling for the already strained water and vegetation resources and this poses the threat of eruption of conflict in Ol-Mukutan.
Rael remembers the conflict that ensued two years ago between neighbouring communities as they clashed over water and pasture. Members of a neighbouring community went around her village destroying property and forcefully taking away their animals. During the chaos, Rael’s co-wife was killed and Rael was left with her co-wife’s three-month-old baby to take care of.
In the middle of the night, Rael escaped with her children to Tangulbei, the nearest town centre that is over 20 kilometres away, seeking refuge from the fighting that was going on. When she got there, she found hundreds of others who had also escaped the conflict and had camped in Tangulbei. Here, Rael and her family stayed for a few weeks as internally displaced people and were supported with relief food, tents and medication, facilitated by ActionAid.
Her journey to recovery took time, as she had to rebuild her life and her homestead, which was destroyed by the bandits during the inter-community conflict over natural resources.
“I hope we receive rain soon because if the drought persists, we might have a recurrence of the conflict that happened two years ago. Our communities are already straining to share the little water we have at the water points. Animals are dying of thirst and we fear that this might cause our communities to fight again” Rael says.
ActionAid together with the local Disaster Management Committee has just conducted a rapid needs assessment for the drought situation in Ol-Mukutan and Tangulbei for a response.