Wato Gura, beneficiary of the ECHO funded Resilience Consortium. Photo Credit: Blandina Bobson/Oxfam

Wato Gura, beneficiary of the ECHO funded Resilience Consortium. 

Impacting women to cope with harsh effects of the ongoing drought in Marsabit County, Kenya

The time is some minutes past 2pm; we brave the scorching sun; the already soaring temperatures and the rocky sometimes-dusty terrain to drive to Gamura village, in Maikona ward Kenya. We pass by a few iron sheet structures and seated outside are about 20 children waving at us as they enjoy their lunch; we wave back and are informed they are students of Gamura Primary School. A few metres away, one huge leafless tree stands out in the bare rocky land under the clear blue skies, not even a wisp of cloud to soften the harsh rays of the sun. Seated underneath it is a group of men and colourfully dressed women waiting patiently for a bank agent, who was going to transfer cash to 35 most vulnerable households in response to the drought that has currently hit the country and adversely affected the residents of Gamura.

One such resident is Wato Racha Guyo, a 70 year old widow, mother of 7 children of which 4 are married and living away from Gamura and 3 she says were up in the mountains looking for pasture for their animals. She is also a grandmother to 3 grandchildren who live with her.  I meet Wato during a drought emergency response cash transfer exercise. The cash transfer was being undertaken by Concern Worldwide, and funded by EU humanitarian aid through the Oxfam led resilience consortium. Cash transfer is an emergency response approach that gives the most vulnerable households a flexible safety net to cope with emergencies. The resilience consortium led by Oxfam supports vulnerable communities living in drought affected areas by strengthening their capacities to prepare, mitigate, cope, react and respond to emergencies such as the on going drought.

Wato, a beneficiary of the Concern Worldwide’s drought emergency cash transfer programme and the community at large, feel that disaster risk management initiatives have prepared them better to cope with the effects of the drought through the training and support received from Concern Worldwide through funding from EU humanitarian aid. Wato and other community members have been trained on ways they can come together as a community to manage their grazing land, watering points; develop disaster risk reduction plans and also how to seek support from their county representatives.

In addition to the cash transfer, Concern Worldwide has been conducting health and nutrition outreach to ensure all children less than 5 years of age, pregnant and lactating women have access to health and nutrition services. Concern had already undertaken a slaughter offtake exercise in December 2016 which involved the purchase of 35 goats for €30 each from 35 extremely poor and vulnerable households selected by the community members. The goats were slaughtered and shared among other vulnerable households.  This is a practical approach that was aimed at sensitizing the communities not to hold on to their livestock during drought but to destock thereby getting cash that they can use to buy food or restock their herd when weather conditions improve.

Wato is perhaps the oldest amongst the 35 targeted beneficiaries from Gamura, spent her share of €30 that she got from the slaughter off take to address her most pressing needs such as purchase of cereals, vegetables, milk and health services. Due to her old age and inability to walk long distance to look for water she also used some of the money to purchase some water. As a senior, Wato is charged with the responsibility of taking care of her 3 grandchildren between the ages of 5 to 8 on her own with no reliable source of income.  In order to enable her family cope with the current drought, she has reached out to neighbours and relatives for extra support and is prioritising the children’s meals over her own. Wato also adds that she doesn’t own any livestock; her children gave her the goat she gave for the slaughter off take initiative. She expressed gratitude for this emergency response through which they have had access to health and nutrition services, meat from the slaughter offtake and cash for other food and non-food items.

Wato says the consortium intervention came at the right time as she and her family had little to eat, and the little they had was running out fast, the water sources had dried up and the milking herd had to join with the satellite herd in the mountains where there is some pasture left.

On this day, she collects her cash and keeps it carefully in her small bag and walks away. If the rains don’t come, the future seems bleak for Wato and the residents of Gamura, but for now she chooses to live one day at a time and Concern Worldwide along with humanitarian actors like EU humanitarian aid will be there to support emergency responses for those most in need and build the resilience of communities to withstand the impact of disasters into the future.