Sunday, March 3, 2024

Easing the pain of drought in East Africa

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A New Zealand nonprofit is appealing to farmers half a world away for help.
Among other things, ChildFund’s dairy project in Kenya involves baling hay to get farmers through the dry periods.
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This article is part of Famers Weekly’s annual Land Champions series. Read the full series here.

According to the United Nations, the Horn of Africa – comprising parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia – is experiencing the most severe drought in recent history, following four consecutive failed rainy seasons. It is a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years. 

ChildFund chief executive Mark Collins said production at the New Zealand-backed project, Masimba Dairy Processing Centre in Emali, a rural and semi-arid area of Kenya, is significantly down because of the drought.

The project was funded by the New Zealand Government’s Aid Programme and New Zealand supporters of ChildFund and started over five years ago when a need to improve agriculture practices was identified. During this project, NZ and Kenyan farming experts worked with local Maasai farmers to develop a project plan suited to the local environment.

Despite the drought, the factory remains critical for farmers and their families to get through climate emergencies. 

“ChildFund’s Masimba Dairy Processing Centre is as tangible as it gets when it comes to humanitarian and development work,” Collins said. 

“Droughts like the current one highlight the importance of climate resilient projects like ChildFund’s dairy project in Kenya, which supports farmers with climate-smart agriculture practices, training on pasture cultivation and management, and baling hay to get farmers through the dry periods.” 

ChildFund chief executive Mark Collins with Samli dairy co-op scientist and sales rep Francis Ndunda Musau.

The opening of the Masimba Dairy Processing Centre is on the back of a four-year ChildFund agricultural project that has seen the establishment of the Samli Dairy Co-operative of 600 farmers, two milk collection centres and three milk collection points. 

“I’ve heard firsthand from farmers and workers at the Masimba Dairy Processing Centre whose lives and the lives of their families have completely changed because of this project. It’s a great example of sustainable, locally led development work and now ChildFund wants to grow it and do more,” Collins said. 

He is calling on New Zealanders to help support the programme by donating a cow, goat, chicken or farming bundle this year through its Gifts that Grow appeal.

Dairy is strongly linked to the traditional farming practices of Maasai farmers and was one of the two agricultural sectors prioritised in the project.  

“This dairy project is as much about getting protein from milk and yoghurt into children as it is about sustainable livelihoods for farmers and their families who face daily hardships in this very dry and remote area of Kenya,” Collins said.