‘Everything is dry’: Kenya droughts put herding cultures at risk | Drought

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Kenya’s remote Marsabit County, in the far north near the border with Ethiopia, is the land of pastoralists. The smooth asphalt roads of Kenya’s Marsabit County are frequently interrupted by passing cattle, camels, or goats on the hot midday sun.

The region has been dubbed the “Cradle of Mankind” – Kenya has more fossil human species remains than anywhere else in Africa – yet the intensely unforgiving and parched environment means life here has never been easy.

But as East Africa faces a debilitating succession of droughts, the worst in 40 years, the region’s resilient communities are being pushed to their limits.

Benjamin Galwaha was born in Laisamis in southern Marsabit. It is a small, rural town with 3,000 residents. Galwaha, 33 years old, owns a small shop and a few sheep and cattle.

As his three young sons watch American cartoons inside one of the traditional huts he has built for his family, he thinks back to just a couple of decades ago when his hometown seemed like a different place: There were wild animals abound, abundant wild fruits for foraging, plenty of space for everyone’s animals; things were peaceful.

It was home to just a small fraction of the population today, and the surrounding landscape was densely covered in dryland forests.

The landscape is now barren and punctuated with thorny brush, occasional green shrubs, which goats might nibble at, hopefully.

“Everyone had plenty of animals then,” Galwaha remembers, leaning his slender frame over his motorbike. “We ate meat all the time. But life has gotten much tougher now.”

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