Kajiado drought crisis: Women become breadwinners

Kajiado drought

Women fetch water at in Kajiado.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Many women in Kajiado County have become sole breadwinners after thousands of livestock were wiped out by drought.

In most homesteads, heaps of animal skeletons and fresh carcasses can be seen. Herders, particularly men, are agonising silently. It will take them at least two years to restock their animals if they receive enough rains within that period.

Many men who have been left with no means to earn a living opt not to go for relief food being supplied by local non-governmental organisations and the two levels of government.

“It’s against our tradition for a man to queue for relief food. Most men depend on livestock but they are no more. Our women usually go for relief food. This is the worst drought in three decades,” said Mr Daniel Ole Mbusia, a herder from Mashuru who recently lost 100 cows to drought.

Despite short rains being recorded in most parts of the country, some parts of the vast county have received very little rainfall. Residents continue to depend on well-wishers for survival.

Over the weekend, ‘Nation’ caught up with women draped in traditional shukas at Loiborajijik in Emarti location, Mashuuru Sub-county, as they went to receive relief food distributed by the Maa Diaspora Association, under the Tushumuaki Hope organisation.

At least 170 households received rice, maize flour, wheat flour, cooking oil, sugar, tea leaves and cabbages. Few men turned up. 

“Our men have taken a back seat after most of our animals succumbed to drought. Casual labour in tomato farms is no more. I will trek for even 50 kilometres for relief food to feed my children,” said Ms Susan Kango.

The situation is dire in polygamous families as most organisations distribute food per family. Such families are forced to share the little the co-wives bring home.

“The co-wives share duties like collecting firewood and fetching water in community boreholes which are far away or looking for relief food,” said Ms Janet Parkare, a resident.

Tushumuaki Hope founder Mary Nailetoi said the situation is dire, urging more well-wishers to chip in.

“Most of these families are sleeping on empty stomachs. Their hope for tomorrow is waning. The burden to feed the families is solely on women’s shoulders. It’s tough,” she said.

 Ms Nailetoi wants both the national and county governments to consider restocking animals as a post-drought strategy for pastoralist communities countrywide.

“The drought-hit pastoral community has no post-drought plan. Let both levels of government come up with a framework to help herders restock,” she said.

According to the National Drought Management Authority data, the country has endured three severe droughts in the past decade: 2010-2011, 2016-2017 and 2020-2022

The 2020-2022 drought has been the most severe, the worst in 40 years.  Some 2.5 million livestock have died as a result of drought countrywide, with 4.3 million people needing food assistance.