Like most other people in Mandera, Kenya, Mohammed Abdullahi has spent most of his life making a living from his animals. Living a traditional pastoralist way of life, he used to travel with his animals in search of water and pasture. However, years of drought decimated his herd and forced him to turn to agriculture to feed his family.
Mohammed, who is in his late 60s, is part of an agricultural group in Yabichio village that was set up by Islamic Relief. This group is made up of former pastoralists like Mohammed who can no longer sustain a life that relies on their animals. Islamic Relief trained them on how to prepare land, plant the seeds and harvest the crops; provided them with pumps to irrigate the land; and gave them seeds and tools. So during the most recent drought to hit Mandera, Mohammed was able to grow his own food to sell at market and provide for his children.
Mohammed said, “Life as a pastoralist is very difficult. When there is rain, then your animals are healthy and you have milk and meat, but if there is drought then there is nothing. There was a drought 19 years ago that seriously affected my livestock. Gradually I got my life back together, but then this recent drought struck and nearly all my livestock died. … There have always been problems, even when I was a child, but I think things are getting worse.”
“I used to travel from place to place with my animals and didn’t have knowledge about agriculture and or the equipment to irrigate the dry land. I didn’t know about pumps and other tools, so when I started farming it was very difficult. But Islamic Relief opened our eyes and gave us the knowledge and tools we didn’t have. They gave us pump sets, fuel, seeds, farm tools and importantly training. They trained us how to use the pumps and how to maintain them, and how to plant the seeds and when to harvest the crops. We now know about growing cash crops, how to build irrigation ditches and how to prepare the land for planting.”
“Before we had the pumps, it was very difficult to irrigate the land, and we had to bring up the water by hand. Sometimes the land would flood if there was heavy rain and would wash away the crops because we did not have any flood control systems.”
“Sometimes I feel bad that I have left the pastoral way of life that my family practiced for so many years, but I know I am better off now. The life of my whole family has improved since I changed to agriculture. I now have more food, can provide better health care to my children, and because we don’t have to move around in search of pasture anymore, all my children can attend school.”
“Most people here who are pastoralists have lost their animals because of the drought and are suffering from food shortages. They are reliant on the relief aid that charities give out, but this is not a good way to live. I am happy that I have this other option to grow my own food which should help me through this hard time.”