Maasai herders struggle to keep their cows alive in the severe drought in Kenya. The animals are too weak to stand, with sores on their skin from lying on the ground and ribcages sticking out from their sides.
Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are experiencing the worst drought in 40 years, with four failed consecutive rainy seasons, killing sheep and cows. Maasai herders are not able to feed their animals and either let the animals die or try to sell them for very little at animal markets.
“This is the kind of situation we have all found ourselves in, with emaciated cattle,” Maasai herder Jackson Sane said while speaking at an animal market in the town of Ilbisil.
“The brownish ones [cow] lying beside me would sell for around 60,000 Kenyan shillings ($495) or 65,000 Kenyan shillings ($536). Now, they [the cows] are selling for only 1,500 Kenyan shillings (about $13),” Sane said.
Cows are central to the traditional Maasai way of life; they are the primary source of food and income. “The reason we, the Maasai, would rather have our cows die is because of the poor prices they are now fetching,” Sane added.
The animals at the market were so weak from lack of food that they couldn’t walk anymore; men had to lift them in and out of vehicles.
“We are encountering two problems currently: maize meal prices have shot up, petroleum too while livestock prices have seriously depreciated. We are facing a serious challenge here,” cattle trader Joshua Kedoya said.
“We just come to the market because we are desperate, and there is nothing else to do,” Kedoya added.
“Most of these cows here have lost all their calves to the drought. We sometimes manage to save a few, but the majority of them end up dying. You can see how some of them have sores on their bodies, that’s because they are sometimes so weak to stand,” herder Ntyuyoto Sepeina said.