NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
The driver of a car at the front honked
incessantly Sunday as the eight others behind him joined in the
effort to make the dozens of animals that were crossing the main
road in Rongai, a suburb on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s
capital, hurry up.
But the two boys
herding the goats, sheep and cows seemed not to be in haste as
they knew there was no pasture on the other side of the road.
After about two
minutes, the over 100 animals had crossed to the other side of
the road and the boys took them to a dumpsite where they started
to forage for feeds.
The scene has become
the common in the suburb and others like Kitengela and Ngong in
Kajiado County and Athi River in Machakos, where years back, the
pastoralists would roam freely with their animals in search of
There were no
concrete houses on the swathes of the land that was once
communal and some rivers were flowing with water, however drier
But that is in the
past. A faster growth in real estate development in the suburbs
initially occupied by the Masais, one of Kenya’s largest
pastoralist communities, is killing the cattle-keeping and
communal life amid the adverse effect of climate change.
The Masais, who
still keep cows but in smaller numbers, no longer have the
luxury to walk for kilometers in search of pasture.
In the urban parts
of the towns, the land has been subdivided and sold and houses
built on them for human settlement as real estate development
And in the rural
areas, the land that was once communal has also been sub-divided
and fenced making the movement of herders with animals from one
place to another impossible.
“There is drought
all over but we cannot move from one place to another in search
of pasture. Life is tough, where shall we keep our cows,” Julius
Laarat, a herder in Kitengela said on Sunday.
He noted that he is
now forced to herd his 30 animals on road reserves to avoid
conflict with the new owners of the land in the suburb.
“When I was growing
up in 1990s, all this was open land,” he said pointing to a
piece of land that now holds dozens of storeyed buildings.
“It did not belong
to my family but we would graze our 400 cows for kilometers
without anyone asking us,” he said.
At one section of
the land there was a river that hardly dried. It is no more,
forcing Laarat and other herders in the community to let their
cows drink sewer water released from residential houses in the
Deeper in Kajiado
County, things are not any different. While some landowners have
leased part of their pieces to people farming using irrigation,
others have sold to real estate developers and fenced off the
On it they have
grown fodder like Boma Rhodes and lucerne for production of hay
which they later feed their animals or sale.
John Rolorker, based
in Isinya, is among those who have embraced fodder production in
bid to conform to the change sweeping through the region.
The owner of 200
cows said initially he had 150 acres of ‘idle land’, but he
lease 10 to someone who is growing onions on it and sold 60 of
them to a sacco from Nairobi which bought for its members and
The money he got
from the deal he used part to sink a borehole on his land and
fenced off the remainder where he is now growing Boma Rhodes
grass for his animals.
changed. We cannot afford to move from one place to another
looking for pasture and water,” he said, noting he offers the
water freely to the community but sales hay at 3 U.S. dollars
But by fencing off
his land, members of the community who still practice
pastoralism cannot graze their animals on his land as was in the
Rolorker noted that
the region is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts.
Studies have shown
that the changing usage of land and climate change have shrunk
cattle population significantly in Kajiado and Narok, counties
where the Masais live. However, they noted that even as the
communal culture of the community dies, new opportunities in
land use are coming up.
“With the rapidly
changing climate and land usage in pastoralist communities, it
is certain that the free-range form of cattle keeping is
untenable. The pastoralists must now adopt intensive cattle
keeping. Sinking boreholes and growing fodder would work best
for the community as opposed to moving their animals which is an
impossible feat in towns in their regions,” said Henry Wandera,
an economics lecturer in Nairobi.