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Guest Blogs: Drought in East Africa:

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A recent report from the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) sounds the alarm about the 2.6 million Kenyans who are currently facing starvation with the number set to rise to 3 million in the next three months. The following guest blogs from the East African Children’s Fund highlights the intersectionality of climate change, education, health, and biodiversity. For more information on the impact of the drought in Kenya see the NDMA website .

 

Learning From Adversity

by Doris Mbabu and Tara McKinney, Directors, East African Children’s Fund

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

Drought is nothing new to Kenyans, and yet droughts during recent years pose a new challenge to surviving off the land, due to their frequency and duration. For many Kenyans, crop yields have an impact far beyond nourishing bodies. Their conversion into Kenyan shillings pays for food, school fees, and other necessities. During times of drought, poor harvests of crops make it especially difficult to keep children in school. 

East African Children’s Fund recognizes this complex relationship between crop yields, school attendance, and child nutrition. We support food security efforts in eastern and northern Kenya that benefit children through school feeding and farming programs. The school feeding programs incentivize school attendance, especially for girls, and the farming programs provide access to a more nutritionally diverse diet than would otherwise be available. Our partners have adapted to recurring and stubborn droughts by modifying their approach to food security and diversifying their farming methods and inputs. The following is one example of one partner organization.

 We support Partner A that provides both a home and school for almost 1,000 vulnerable children and youth from fourteen different communities. Over the last five years, due to drought, staple food prices have tripled and can soar even higher when local harvests are poor. In anticipation of poor harvests, Partner A requires the financial flexibility to purchase food staples (maize and pulses) in advance and to store them in inexpensive pest-resistant sacks. Their food security programs include growing fruits and vegetables such as moringa and amaranth that are nutrient dense and drought tolerant. They also rear small livestock such as chickens, turkeys and pigs for alternate protein sources, and maintain fishponds and beehives. They take an additional step to maximize all available resources by grinding unused plant material into flour which is added to animal feed. Excess feed production, especially fish pellets, generates revenue for operations.

As Partner A has learns to adapt to extended periods of drought, the larger community benefits too. Their farming programs train the community and school youth in nutrition and agricultural best practices that are suited to local conditions. These practices include intercropping, planting traditional vegetables, and using simple irrigation solutions.

The impact of these programs has been notable. Since the inception of the food security program, as measured by school infirmary visits, infections among students have decreased by eighty per cent.  Equally impressive, for children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend school, their school has become a top performer in national exams in the local school district. Although it is impossible to completely offset the negative impact of these droughts, comprehensive and locally-led approaches can diminish the severity while promoting lasting positive impact.

Honey: Liquid Gold 

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

by Lisa Peracchio, Director, East African Children’s Fund

African honeybees are considered the last intact healthy honeybee population in the world according to experts at the recent International Apicultural Congress, Apimondia 46, in Montreal, Canada. Given that one-third of our food is dependent on pollination, the food security concerns are clear. Beekeeping is viewed as an untapped resource across Africa. It has the potential for not only poverty alleviation but also wealth creation.

Honeybees provide many benefits, both directly in their production and indirectly through their activities. Honeybees produce honey, propolis and wax, products which could strengthen trade between African countries, and beyond.  Currently, world demand for organic honey exceeds supply, which could be a market for rural African honey, where pesticides are not used. While honeybees forage, they are also pollinating. Pollination increases crop yields which are critical to agriculture dependent economies. Pollination also protects Africa’s biodiversity benefitting most of its indigenous flowering plants. Finally, honeybees also play a role in mitigating conflict between people and wildlife. It may be hard to believe that elephants are afraid of honeybee colonies. However, placing “beehive fences” at Kibale National Park in western Uganda over a three-year period resulted in a 73% decrease in crop raids by elephants to neighboring farms.

There are success stories of African beekeeping related to youth and women employment initiatives from Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa and Uganda. There are differing opinions regarding best practices. Some hail the need for the “improved’ and “modern” beekeeping technology of the Langstroth box hives that are used in the west. However, East African Children’s Fund believes in locally-led solutions. Our partners use traditional hives, Kenyan Top Bar, log or hybrid that best serves their communities. Honeybees migrate for foraging opportunities, so having many local hives in a variety of settings increases the chances of keeping a bee colony, especially during droughts.

Regardless of the technology employed, beekeeping in Africa presents many opportunities for improved food security, revenue generating initiatives, as well as forest and wildlife conservation.


The East Africa Children’s Fund improves the nutrition and health of vulnerable children in East Africa by partnering with locally-led community organizations. For more information visit www.eacfund.org