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Trip Report to Vets International Visit to Sauti Moja Marsabit

From the Field


VI has had a contract with Sauti Moja Marsabit (SMM) to support Animal Health training and medicines since 2016, which was well received and effective in its first year. However, in 2017, a terrible drought hit Northern Kenya, resulting in animals moving away, and long walks to get water. VI responded with an emergency donkey project with supplemental feeding for the donkeys so the women could carry enough water to supply their families.

SMM’s normal funding also did not come through in 2017, leaving the SMM staff to work without pay for 6 months. They continued to work with the community, keeping the office open, and monitoring the project.

In the spring of 2018, Sauti Moja was revived, first by rain which provided grazing for surviving livestock. Then they received two grants to organize Pre-Proposal Assessments, one for ERDO and the other for CITAM, which included overhead to start paying staff again. The pre-proposal data will be used to plan new projects, and act as a baseline for monitoring them. The new projects are expected to be approved by August 1, 2018. The CITAM proposal will be based on the communities’ declared priorities, so is expected to include restocking of goats. The ERDO proposal will be for Increased Resilience Against Drought, and will include boreholes in the lowlands, and some home gardens and agriculture to supplement their livestock-based livelihoods. In the highlands, the water table is too deep for boreholes for irrigation, so livestock keeping will continue to be the main livelihood of the population.

Sauti Moja also recruited a new Board of Directors. We met the new Chair of the Board, Ven Kargi Dengi, who is a pastor, a pastoralist and passionate development worker.

Chair Kargi told us about “kallasami,” the indigenous “banking system” where someone with many animals will help someone who has lost their livestock. If your neighbor loses all of their cows, and you have many, you will give two cows to a neighbor,  and when a female calf is born, they will give it to you; or if a bull calf is born, they will sell it to buy their own cow, and return one of the cows to you. This relationship results in the “giver” being called “the friend of the cow, or camel, or goat,” and they become part of your family through the sharing of livestock. Therefore, Sauti Moja has become “The Friend of the Goat” for the poorest families in the area.

Most of the SMM staff were out in the field conducting the assessments, so we visited project sites with Executive Director Bernard Ndambo, and project coordinator Abdub; the atmosphere in the office was excited, exhausted and optimistic about getting back to work. They all expressed their appreciation that Vets International did not give up on them, but continued the partnership when they felt abandoned by the other partners.

We visited 4 households who received animal health training and donkey support. They all stated that they had saved the lives of their animals because of their training and medicine. One widow said that her husband had always tended to the animal health because it was “a man’s job,” but after he died, and she asked his brothers for help with sick animals, they were always too busy. Now she does not need to depend on relatives, and finds that neighbors now come to her for advice. She never thought that as a woman, she would be treated with this much respect. They all requested more training and medication.

Bernard and I discussed the need for greater capacity for animal health diagnosis and disease surveillance. For example, there were a lot of goat abortions in the spring that could have been from RVF but could also have been from Brucellosis (which is very common), or PPR, or other pathogens. There is a very high kid mortality rate (we should get exact figures from the Assessments due in August), but we don’t know if they are dying of nutritional, infectious or parasitic causes, or all 3. Nursing does are taken to graze during the day, while the small kids are kept inside an enclosure without any additional food, which could contribute to the problem.   We agreed that he would prepare a proposal with the County vets to collect dead or dying animals for post mortems, sampling and testing, after the other projects have begun.

The Emergency Donkey Support Project was completed and we learned some important lessons. The grant to Cestrone was not approved for several months, so that the supplemental feed (range cubes) was not delivered until after the rains began and the emergency was over. However, it could not be returned because the expiration date was nearing, and the County vet had become involved, and he insisted it be distributed although the need was not acute. The women reported that the donkeys loved the range cubes, which are full of molasses! They may be useful in the future as a treat during training and behavioral conditioning. They also strongly preferred the metal harnesses that are much lighter than the traditional wooden ones, and therefore easier for both people and animals. SMM also discovered that the cloth for padding was more expensive than expected, so they will adjust the budget

Jillo Eodana (purple dress, demonstrates how to give a goat an injection) is a widow with 7 children, who belongs to Dirib Gombo CLB. Jillo means happiness in Borana. Her oldest son dropped out of school and is a bodaboda driver (motorbike taxi) to make money. Four children are in school. Her oldest daughter got pregnant and was expelled from school, so she lives at the compound too. She now has 10 big goats and 5 kids, but lost a goat to hyenas while grazing. Her donkey from SMM still helps her bring water to her home, and also water to the small kids who cannot go out with dams to graze. The herders use her donkey to carry their “luggage,” (equipment for cooking and camping out in the field) while guarding the goat herd.

During the drought, she and her children suffered. First she tried to sell charcoal, but the government forbid it. The she tried to brew alcohol, but the government also outlawed that. So having her goats helped a lot, because after they gave birth, she could sell some of the surplus milk for a good price and buy food. She lost 5 goats during the drought, but kept the others alive by cutting branches and collecting waste at the grinding mill. When she goes out to where the goats are grazing, her goats come over to see her because they remember that she fed them.

Her CLB (Community Livestock Group) meets every month for “ququi”(Borana for “merry-go-round,”) where each woman contributes a small amount of money, and it goes to one person with a great need. The group also is raising tree seedlings to sell, and bought eating utensils, which they rent to groups for weddings and other ceremonies.

Lelo Denge from Dadach Kambi Village (in Kubi Qallo location) is a widow with 4 children, including a baby who is still nursing (she is wearing a black scarf). Her group helps each other and they meet twice a month. She received 7 goats from SMM, but 3 died during the drought. The remaining 4 are healthy, and 3 have kidded already. They are grazing at the edge of town, and her brother’s son brings her goat milk every morning. Her donkey was a huge help during the drought when she needed to get water for her family. Unfortunately it was killed by a hyena a few weeks ago.

She was from Chalbi, but the Gabra raided it, so they escaped with their lives but lost all of their livestock. Other Borana from Marsabit raised money to build them houses but they are still very poor.

Like many people here, she believes that goats will get sick if they get too much water, so they are not taken to water while the forage is still green. They treat any goat with fever (ruffled coat, anorexia, warm to touch) with oxytet, and do not understand the difference between viruses and bacteria. Therefore, more animal health training is needed.

Wato Dadacha is a widow with 3 sons. She had no livestock before she received 11 goats through SMM, but lost 3 during the drought. She has 6 new kids, so she has a flock of 14 goats, which are herded with her relatives. She loves staying out in the open country with the goats, and often takes her small child with her at night, and leaves her two older children with a neighbor, who feeds them. When she has milk, she shares it with this neighbor.

She appreciated the training on animal health and also on human reproductive health, because it is hard for a single mother to raise a child alone. She is most interested in having more training in animal health so she can keep her animals alive.