Gufu Arero Gedo – 65,
has been a pastoralist all his life. He is not educated and feels he has no alternative means of earning a living. He lost most of his cattle in the 2010-11 drought.
Maria Jatane, 62,
is a leader of a community women’s group. She is glad that her community are now settled in Ele Borr as it means the children can go to school every day which was difficult when they were moving around regularly.
Dabosu Buru, 32,
is a pastoralist and also belongs to the new community environmental committee. The group comes up with by-laws and plans to protect and conserve the community’s natural resources to protect them against drought and floods.
Kabale Ture, 65,
is a widow. She has five children, none of whom are old enough to support her yet. She used to have 100 head of cattle but since the drought, she has only two left. She also has a deteriorating eyesight condition (possibly cataracts or glaucoma).
Kabale Jillo, 40,
is pregnant with her ninth child. In the past, she found it difficult to manage the family needs and had to ask her husband every time she wanted to buy salt, sugar, oil or other basics.
The families of Ele Borr live in makeshift dome-shaped homes and depend on cattle and goats for food and their living. A few wealthier households have started to rear camels too because they survive drought better than other animals. The Borana tribe is one of the many nomadic pastoralist tribes who roam the vast arid lands of Kenya. Ele Borr’s inhabitants variously belong to the Christian or Muslim religion but there is as yet no church or mosque in the village.
To reach Ele Borr, a visitor must cross hundreds of miles of gruelling dirt or sand tracks in the barren Chalbi desert until rock and sand give way to bush and thorny pasturelands. The Ele Borr community is located miles and miles off the beaten track close to the Ethiopia border.
Traditionally, men and boys look after the livestock. Depending on the season, they roam long distances to graze and water their animals. In normal years, they usually venture far during the rainy season when there is plenty of food for their animals and stay closer to home during the dry season when food is in short supply. During drought years, however, men and boys have to travel further in search of pasture and water leaving women, children and the elderly in a very vulnerable situation as the source of their food and income is so far way.
Women stay at home to feed, clothe and raise the family. Left to cope alone for long periods of time, women and children are often extremely vulnerable, especially during droughts. Women are traditionally responsible for constructing and deconstructing their houses and fetching or carrying water. Families in Ele Borr are now more sedentary (settled) than nomadic, especially since a small school has been set up by a local Catholic mission and a dispensary is being built. The village also has a small shop selling items like soap and salt.
The pastoralist diet is largely made up of livestock products such as milk, meat and bled livestock blood. There is very limited use of vegetable, legumes and fruits as part of the diet. It is common place for most households to drink milk or eat meat in the morning and in the evening for months and months on end. The quantity and quality of their food is affected by seasonality, and particularly during drought years when both humans and animals are under extreme duress.
Competition and conflict over water and land resources especially during dry years is one of the factors that has influenced a new ‘settling’ mindset among pastoralist communities like these. Several years ago, dwindling resources and war with the neighbouring Gabra tribe drove the 200 families away from Ele Borr. However, they encountered further conflict in the new settlement so returned to Ele Borr.
The east Africa drought in 2010-11 was a particularly bad experience for the families here. Many lost much of their livestock leaving them hungry and struggling to survive. Food relief supported them for a while but it was not a sustainable solution. They wanted more long-term support to help them develop livelihood strategies that could help them better cope with drought and be able to bounce back following severe food and water shortages.
Ele Borr has no electricity and is not connected to mobile telephone networks, unless you walk about a mile away from the village, climb up to the third ledge of a large rock and stand in a particular spot! One transistor radio serves the needs of the whole community for news and weather forecasts, but the pastoralists still tend to rely largely on the traditional practice of reading a fresh goats’ intestines to forecast weather or predict peace and war.
The village receives little support or services from local or national government, aside from some relief during food crises or a police presence when tribal fighting occurs. This is partly due to the community’s remoteness and isolation, partly because of their nomadic traditions and partly as a result of a lack of will or finances to travel the long distances out into the communities.
Many young men have opted to leave the pastoralist way of life to seek work in the city. However, as one young man reported, being with his family and struggling to make the currently precarious pastoralist existence work for him was better than living hand to mouth in Nairobi’s slums, dependent on uncertain casual labour, an experience he had tried and did not like.
Through Christian Aid’s Resilient Livelihoods approach, we help communities understand the key risks they face in their own context, and organise themselves to tackle these risks while also identifying opportunities so that they can thrive.
Find out what risks and problems prevent the community from developing thriving livelihoods.
An inclusive approach for understanding community risks:
Risk from a woman’s point of view:
Floods and Fire:
Working with the most excluded and vulnerable – Rubia Mwaniki explains how CCSMKE prioritises its support in Marsabit County.