Livestock and Drought

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ILRI and ASARECA, with USAID support, conducted a survey of 663 households investigating coping mechanisms of pure-pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, during the 1995-1997 drought and 1997-1998 El NiƱo rains (floods) in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda (Ndikumana et al. 2002). The DMP conducted a similar enquiry in Kenya (Anonymous 2004). The majority of respondents among four tribes in dry areas of Kenya were aware of traditional signs that they felt had predictive power for weather, vegetation and soil conditions. Systems analysis revealed a number of opportunities to help herders improve their preparation and coping strategies.

If droughts could be foreseen longer in advance, herdsmen could reduce herd size in an orderly way, avoiding panic sales. Cooperative action among herders could avoid them being exploited by middlemen e.g. in panic sales of livestock that depress markets and strip the herders of their capital assets. Coordinated downsizing and rebuilding of herds could reduce market squeezes and gluts. Better health care for animals during droughts could increase survival rates. Better range management and the creation of fodder banks could ease the dry-season feed constraint.

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