Two years ago, Larinkoi ole Kone was rich with livestock. He owned a healthy herd of 70 cattle. They were a source of pride and income. The animals provided for his wives and 10 children.
Then, an unforgiving drought visited Mr. Kone’s lands in Kenya’s Central Province. Only three of his cows survived. This pushed Mr. Kone to embrace a totally different kind of livestock. One he thought he’d never try.
Beekeeping has been promoted as an alternative livelihood in Kenya for many years. But many pastoralists regard this activity as “beneath them.” “Drought has changed all that,” Mr. Kone says. “We are now willing to try other activities to make a living.”
He is now one of the many pastoralists who have embraced beekeeping. A local NGO called Neighbours Initiative Alliance gave Mr. Kone two beehives. According to the NGO, local pastoralists lost 80 per cent of their livestock to successive droughts.
In nearby Ethiopia, herders are facing similar challenges. A new study by the NGO Oxfam found that the main rains that fall between February and May have decreased. It also foundthe temperature has risen steadily since 1960.
Like Kenya’s pastoralists, Ethiopia’s herders are experimenting with new activities to survive the drought. But rather than looking for new kinds of livestock, shepherds in northern Ethiopia found a new way to re-stock their herds. They use a “revolving fund” approach.
It starts with one farmer buying sheep on credit. When the sheep produce young, the farmer sells the lambs to a neighbour. The first farmer uses the income to repay his debt. The second farmer continues the cycle by selling to another farmer.
While Ethiopian farmers found success by renewing their herds, Mr. Kone is proud of his new livestock. Drought does affect beekeepers. It reduces nectar production. But Mr. Kone has been successful. This year, he harvested more than 30 kilograms of honey from his two hives.