West Pokot Pastoralist Recent Climate Change adaptation strategies: Camel Rearing

By Dr. Namenya Daniel Naburi  BRECcIA Post Doc and Joseph Lolentum) August 2021

Camel rearing has become one of the most preferred adaptive strategies among the pastoralist community in West Pokot, this is after realizing that other livestock such as cattle and sheep are more vulnerable to climate change shocks especially drought. Camel is a drought tolerant animal; it can survive for many days without water. (In the video, BRECcIA research came met and interviewed a Borana man who resides among the Pokots in Kacheliba. During the interview the man introduced himself as a Borana (from Borana pastoralist community) who had come all the way from the Isiolo County mainly to get employed as a camel herdsman. The camel he herds belong to a Somali from Somali pastoralist community in Garisa County who resides among the Pokots at Kacheliba Sub-county in West Pokot County. The main reason he sort employment in Pokot community feared among pastoralist communities in Kenya was that, traditionally Pokots have not kept camels and they don’t have the knowledge and skills to take care of camel compared to Somalis and Borana. Therefore, his presence among the Pokots is welcome by the locals because he provides technical support on camel rearing to the local Pokot families at a small fee. We are also told that ‘Camel keeping’ among the Pokots started a decade ago when the Pokots raided the Turkana community and got away with camels. Currently we are told that the county government and the NGOs are also bringing in camels to West Pokot so that the locals can shift to camel keeping as a way of adapting to effects of climate change. Further to the interviews, we were informed that Camel keeping among the Pokots is largely a female role because the camels are kept to feed on higher forage of acacia shrubs around the homesteads during drought while other cattle are driven far away by young males in search of water and pasture since they cannot feed on higher forage such as Acacia shrub trees).

Further in the interview, we are informed that the presence of the Somali and Borana community among the Pokots has made the Pokots to realize the commercial benefit of shift to camel keeping especially during drought season. The Pokot community sell their cattle in order to raise money to buy camels. Camel survive harsh climatic conditions because of their adaptive nature of browsing forage on top of trees, where other animals such as cows, goats, sheep can’t access. There is an emerging ready market for Camel milk and meat in Eldoret town, Kitale and Nakuru where these Somali supply. Comparatively, one camel goes for Ksh. 90,000-120,000 compared to one bull which costs Khs. 30,000-40,000. Therefore, this is the main motivating factor for the Pokots to embrace camel keeping as well as peaceful living with the Somali and Borana pastoralist in Kacheliba Sub-county.

We were also informed that Camel can be milked three – four times a day, thus guaranteeing continuous supply of common food, milk, for pastoralists. This helps the families to divide milking time so that each family can have food especially during drought. (i.e. if one family milked at 10.am another family will milk at 1p.m, another one at 4p.m and another one at 7p.m). National and County governments departments and NGOs in livestock sector are now embracing camel rearing in West Pokot owing the spaces and forage availability, the increasing number of camel population in West Pokot County in the recent past is attributed to pastoralist communities’ adaptation strategies to climate and land cover change through livestock diversification.  

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