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Effects of Global Warming in North Eastern Kenya

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Mention North Eastern province to any Kenyan consistent enough to watch television once or twice a week and you will receive in response, at the very least, a brief flinch and perhaps a resigned face. And rightfully so. This region, located in northeastern Kenya, bordering lawless Somalia and the barely peaceful Sudan, is known for ceaseless fighting, bloody cattle raids, devastating famine and high levels of starvation.

Mainly a pastoralist area, forest or grassland cover in the desolate region is a mere tale especially in the dry seasons where the region descends into a dustbowl, leaving human and livestock death in its trail. Thus, it is common to find most parts of the region dotted with dead goats, sheep, cows and even humans in the dry season. Being nomads, the residents keep camels as these ‘sheep of the desert’ are the only animals that can withstand the desert-like conditions. However, during the dry spells, the herds of cattle they rear have little value as they are mostly weak and emaciated due to lack of pasture. This has led to the Kenyan government resorting to buy the cattle during the harsh conditions, feeding them after which they are resold to the pastoralists when conditions better. There are no rivers of any significance in the region. Water is hence scarce and most residents, who rely on food aid, are forced to cover long distances – in empty stomachs – in search of the life-giving resource. Consequently, there is little or no possibility of irrigation-based development, and the pastoralists continue to rely exclusively on wells to water their stock and for domestic use. Crops rarely grow five feet above the ground, making the men, women and children in the region to rely on relief food, or feed on wild fruits if such help runs out or is hard to come by. Starvation has made the area volatile. Cattle rustling has become a nightmare for most residents, and the use of guns to scare away would-be rustlers has made the region a hub for guns and illegal arms proliferation. Children have been compelled to drop out of school either to help ward off rustling or due to starvation, putting their education at stake. In some instances, the few students enrolled in the local schools fail to show up. However, some of the students in the region perform fairly well despite the hardship they encounter. When it comes to furthering their education though, parents have to make a huge sacrifice of selling their livestock for the sake of their children’s future. Situated in the furthest northern part of Kenya, the location makes aid from the government and other organizations become intricate to reach the people due to poor infrastructure. But with all these odds and challenges, 60-70% of all livestock in Kenya comes from the North Eastern Province, and is sometimes exported to the Middle East as well as elsewhere in Asia. The region is also abundant with wildlife, and is home to a rare type of antelope called the Hirola, which is classified as an endangered species. With livestock in the region totaling to an excess of 2-3 millions, the region can easily be called a livestock tourist area.

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