NDMA animal supplement distribution in Turkana. Photo Credit: Ojwok Photography

Shifting the power to local humanitarian actors

Turkana County, the origin of mankind as it is often called by the residents is the second largest county in Kenya with a population of 855,369 people as of the 2009 National Census. Turkana County is characterized by high temperatures, highly varied rainfall patterns and historical marginalization. As a result of two seasons of rainfall failure, the county is currently facing the worst drought that has left the people suffering from severe hunger and at risk of famine. Animals have died from lack of water and pasture as water points remain dry.  Communities have been left grappling for scarce resources such as water and pasture. Families have been separated as some members move long distances in search of pasture. 

While the drought situation is worsening, there are currently 3.4 million people requiring food assistance with 2.6M in crisis. To respond to this crisis, different actors are on the ground giving the much needed humanitarian assistance including; cash assistance, food essentials, water and sanitation services and also livestock feeds for the remaining animals. When such disasters strike, local and national organizations are on the ground and ready to act, but they time lack the capacity and resources required to extend the support to the affected communities.

 In Turkana County, through support from Shifting the Power (STP) project, Oxfam in Kenya is working with two local organizations to improve speed, quality, and effectiveness of their humanitarian preparedness and responses in Kenya; the Kenya Red Cross Society, Turkana Branch and The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA). Both NDMA and Kenya Red Cross received technical support in designing disaster preparedness and response plans and further received financial resources to support the implementation of the agreed plans. Through STP support, NDMA brought together stakeholders in the humanitarian sector for coordinated planning, preparedness and rapid response mechanism in case of an emergency. 

“We embarked on that journey and brought all stakeholders together to map coordinated response actions should a drought eventuality happen. Unfortunately, drought struck, we missed rain for two seasons.  We came up with contingency measures that communities and jointly with stakeholders. Some of the plans we came up with include the livestock supplementary feeds distribution, water trucking to areas there are no water facilities and livestock destocking.” Emmanuel Kisangao, County Resilience Officer for NDMA.

The Kenya Red Cross (KRC) receive support to build the capacity of community members in Turkana to take up the role of fast responder where KRC is not able to reach in good time due to the vastness of the County and the infrastructure inadequacy.  KRC specifically trained community members to be fast responders in the hard to reach areas. The volunteers were trained on various approaches to disaster management including; settling disputes among the cattle-rustling communities, bushfire control, floods preparedness and drought mitigation and response.

So far, NDMA supplied supplementary feeds/pellets to 5500 households in Turkana County. This process involves training communities on the best use of the pellets in terms of quantities and handling. NDMA recommends half a kilo per day for each animal. Priority is given to the weak animals that cannot migrate to the pastures that are far from the homesteads.

Maiyana David, a mother of seven and a beneficiary of the NDMA drought response programme, says this is the worst drought she has ever experienced. She credits NDMA for enabling her and her family to cope with the drought.

“This is the worst drought I have ever experienced. Before the drought, my husband and I owned 50 cows and 100 goats, but now we have been left with three cows and a few goats. It has affected our animals; our source of livelihood, our lives have become so difficult. The pellets we get from NDMA are helping our animals’ survive. Were it not for NDMA the livestock would be dead. We are generally given one sack per household.” Maiyana David. 30 years, mother of seven children.

Emmanuel says that Shifting the Power project has strengthened their capacity in early response to emergencies such as the ongoing drought.  He also says there is better coordination with other stakeholders enabling humanitarian actors to reach more of the affected people by combining resources and efforts. However, he says the needs are more than the available financial resources to enable them reach all the affected communities.

“We only reached the young animals. There were no resources to support the mature/older animals like the cattle. They require a lot of feed in a day. We still have a gap we would wish when we are doing resourcing we can cover all the animals which are affected and in all the areas.” Emmanuel Kisangao, NDMA

Emmanuel adds that STP has enabled them to save animals because they can plan and respond in good time. “Using the resources received from STP program, NDMA shared early warning information, helping communities destock their animals.  The losses that we used to get before STP have reduced. We have been able to sustain animals. During the 2008-2011 drought, we lost about 72% of the livestock. Now the loss is estimated to be 10%.” Emmanuel Kisangao, NDMA

About the project

Shifting the Power project envisions supporting local actors to take up their place alongside international actors to create a more balanced humanitarian system that is more responsive and accountable to disaster affected communities. It aims to shift the mandate from the international organizations to the local organization. This is from the understanding that it is the local organizations with the in depth understanding of the local contexts and already on the ground. Therefore, when disaster strikes, local actors are best placed to respond. Based on the context, local actors then design relevant interventions within a short period. This, in turn, reduces the amount of time local organizations take to respond when the local organizations take the lead. Additionally, the response is well received by communities because they receive the needs from the populations directly thus their response is in line with the needs of the communities.