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Visiting Kajiado

In January, the Kenyan government declared a national food emergency. 10 million people in the country are at risk of starvation this year.

Having been in Kenya for only a few weeks now, it’s already clear that this is a reality. The prices of basic food such as maize has been rising steadily.

NGOs, the UN and the Kenyan government have been distributing food to those who need it. I visited one district, Kajiado, where the vast majority of the people need this assistance.

Kajiado district, located south of Nairobi, shares a border with Tanzania and has the mighty Kilimanjaro rising on its very southern side. It’s an incredibly beautiful place and welcome respite for the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. However, beneath the beauty and the wildlife that stalks the plains, enormous problems exist for the traditional Maasi people.

Living with drought

The Maasi pastoralist people are right now living on a knife edge. Consistent drought over the past few years has left this already dry region, almost barren of vegetation for their livestock. A large portion of the livestock in the area has been moved across the borders to Tanzania and to northern areas of Kenya where more vegetation is available.

For these farmers, it has meant longer periods away from their wives and families, as well as the constant worry that their animals may die soon. Seeing some of the animals left in Kajiado, it’s evident that the drought has had a huge impact. What once were strong and healthy cattle are now so thin their ribs are showing through.

This is having a knock-on effect on the food stocks of the families who own these animals. Cows and goats are now producing little or no milk, which is primarily what these families survive on and sell to buy other food. Compound this with the scarcity of maize in the region and it’s beyond doubt that, without assistance, these families will continue to suffer.