Livestock are the lifeblood of Kenyan pastoralists (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)
In the first ever African Climate Summit held in Nairobi, leaders across the continent are tackling the fallout from increasingly extreme weather. After months of drought followed by a deluge, Kenya alone has lost millions of livestock, which are the lifeblood of isolated farming communities. MAF’s Jacqueline Mwende reports on how MAF has been flying in vets to care for ailing animals
The whole of Africa is only responsible for 4% of global carbon emissions (1.45 billion tonnes), compared to the world’s biggest polluters – China (11.47 billion tonnes), United States (5 billion tonnes), India (2.7 billion tonnes), Russia (1.75 billion tonnes) and Japan (1.07 billion tonnes). And yet, Africa is bearing the brunt of climate change (source: Al Jazeera).
In Kenya, flash floods in May followed the country’s worst drought in decades, which wiped out 2.6 million livestock (source: Agriland).
Before the deluge, many pastures for animals and crops for human consumption shrivelled up in prolonged scorching heat. Natural watering holes evaporated. So many livestock simply perished from hunger and thirst, impacting livelihoods, food production, public health, migration, security, family life and education.
When the rain finally fell, the ground was too hard to absorb it, washing away fields and flooding farms and homes. Bridges destroyed by storms cut off entire communities.
This double disaster has devastated farmers, particularly in Marsabit County in northern Kenya where 309,000 people are in a state of emergency. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 5.44 million Kenyans across the country now face acute food insecurity.
Remote farmers rely on MAF/VMP to keep remaining animals alive (credit: J Mwende)
Isolated farmers have no access to vets
Now that the floodwaters have receded, pastoralists fortunate enough to still own any livestock are doing all that they can to protect their remaining precious animals.
MAF has been flying in volunteer vets to support pastoralists and their livestock in remote places where there are no vets and where people cannot afford treatment.
Daniel Loewen-Rudgers has flown scores of vets to help pastoralists (credit: J Mwende)
This year – in partnership with ‘Veterinarians with a Mission’ (VMP) and ‘Christ is the Answer Ministries’ (CITAM) – MAF has flown scores of vets saving over 74,000 animals in Kenya.
‘We meet people who need veterinary services but they can’t afford it, or they live in communities where there are no veterinary surgeons.
‘VMP’s partnership with MAF ensures that livestock are taken care of, veterinarian services are provided and communities don’t slide into abject poverty due to widespread death of animals, lack of knowledge or misuse of veterinary drugs.’
Dr Josiah Mandieka, founder of Veterinarians with a Mission & MAF passenger
VMP founder Dr Mandieka couldn’t do his work without MAF (credit: Paula Alderblad)
VMP offer a range of free veterinary treatment to isolated farming communities including deworming, vaccinations, surgery and eye and dental care.
Dr Mandieka also emphasises the importance of treating infected animals, to prevent cross contamination with humans:
‘In Kenya there is a serious problem with rabies, which also affects humans. Other serious diseases are blackwater fever (a malaria complication), anthrax (a potentially fatal infection) that can also affect humans if people eat infected meat. Also, brucellosis (caused by ingesting unpasteurised milk and cheese) may affect humans if they drink milk from animals with that disease.’
Ultimectin is a drug used to deworm animals (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)
Vaccinations protect animals & reduce human cross contamination (credit:J Mwende)
From arthritic goats to cows bitten by hyenas
In August, MAF flew a VMP team from Nairobi to Archers Post in Samburu County, northern Kenya. The two-hour flight saved them a seven-hour exhausting road journey.
The vets treated over 6,000 animals during their one-week mission including cattle, donkeys, goats, sheep, camels and dogs. They even delivered a kid when a goat encountered complications during labour.
In July, MAF flew another VMP team from Nairobi to Olturot in Marsabit County, northern Kenya. MAF is the only operator to fly to Marsabit.
The one hour, 40-minute flight saved them 11 hours of road travel. Time saved enabled the vets to treat over 17,500 animals during their one-week mission.
That same month, a 20-strong VMP team travelled south with MAF from Nairobi to Enairebuk in Kajiado County near Tanzania’s border. MAF’s 35-minute flight saved the team at least eight hours by road, enabling them to treat nearly 19,000 animals over four days.
During the trip to Enairebuk – an area home to a number of Kenya’s Maasai tribe – the vets encountered a cow that had been bitten by a hyena. The animal went on to contract myiasis – a condition where maggots infest the wound and feed off the tissue.
After ridding the area of parasites, two vets cleaned and disinfected the wound, and administered antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication to ease the pain and reduce swelling. The cow’s owner was then advised on how to maintain a clean environment, which would aid recovery.
An arthritic goat is treated with pain relief & anti-inflammatory meds (credit: J Mwende)
Vets were also made aware of a goat with severe lameness and swelling in its leg joints – a clear indication of Caprine arthritis. Following an examination of the goat’s mobility and joints, they administered pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication.
The vets also prescribed rest in a clean environment to help heal the affected joints. The goat’s owner Legishon* is grateful for the free treatment:
‘Had the vets not shown up on time, my goat would have lost its ability to walk.’
*Not his real name.
Animals are a precious commodity
A farmer in Archers Post, Samburu relies on livestock to feed his family (credit: J Mwende)
In June, MAF flew VMP to Loyangalani on the edge of Lake Turkana in Marsabit County, northern Kenya. The flight saved the team 15 hours of road travel so that they could treat over 17,500 animals in five days.
In April, a VMP team flew to Loglogo in Marsabit County, northern Kenya for a five-day mission. Thanks to MAF, the team saved a great deal of time, channelling their energy into treating over 14,400 animals including cows, goats, sheep, pigs, camels and dogs.
A camel is vaccinated in Loglogo in Marsabit County (credit: CITAM)
Waqo – who lost two thirds of his livestock during the drought – is relieved:
‘Before the drought I had 1,000 goats and 150 camels, but now I am left with 320 goats and 54 camels. I am happy that the vets are here to treat what’s left, to save them from dying.’
Waqo, farmer from Loglogo, northern Kenya
In March, a VMP team flew to Enairebuk again to treat a range of animals including a cow who fell off a cliff, which was unable to walk. Cattle are extremely precious to the Maasai explains Maasai Pastor Momposi Ole Samperu:
‘The Maasai depend economically on the animals, and they love them so much more than anything else.’
Maasai Pastor Momposi Ole Samperu says animals are everything (credit: Paula Alderblad)
Daniel, the cow’s owner, was concerned that the animal would die, but following an examination, Dr Mandieka assured him that there were no fractures, which was great news. Dr Mandieka also gave advice about how to care for the animal during its recovery.
Daniel’s cow (L) fell off a cliff but fortunately, nothing was broken (credit: Paula Alderblad)
An unpredictable future
Dr Mandieka and the VMP teams would not be able to do their work in isolated places without MAF he says:
‘An opportunity to partner with MAF, enables us to reach remote areas and offer what God has put in our hands.
‘MAF plays a major role in providing air transport that ensures our timely arrival. Without them, these places would be very difficult to reach. I pray that God will flourish MAF’s ministry.’
‘MAF plays a major role’ says VMP’s Dr Mandieka (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)
With or without MAF – in the face of erratic climate change impact – Kenya’s isolated farming communities face an unpredictable future.
In the face of climate change, the Maasai face an uncertain future (credit: J Mwende)
Kenya’s next rainy season is due to start in October and last until December but will it actually rain? If so, when? Will floods wash everything away again, or will average rainfall help desperately needed crops and pastures to finally grow?
Only time will tell.
One thing is certain – more MAF flights with VMP are planned for next year.
More MAF flights are planned with VMP in the future (credit: Jacqueline Mwende)