Aidlink and our partners work with three nomadic-pastoralist communities; in Kenya the Masai and the Turkana, and in Uganda the Karamojong.
Pastoralist communities live a traditional way of life, farming animals such as cattle, goats and camels in remote and isolated dryland regions. As nomads, these communities often travel vast distances by foot with their animals in search of water and pasture. We work with these communities because their lifestyle has been made increasingly difficult due to climate change and the changing environment around them. They face socioeconomic, political, cultural and environmental challenges and are amongst the poorest communities in Kenya and Uganda.
Women and girls face particularly difficult circumstances in the pastoralist communities. Women are prevented from owning livestock or property, therefore they have a lower status within the community. Young girls are expected to stay at home and carry out domestic duties rather than attend school. They also face gender based violence and are often subject to early marriage as families struggle during the drought to feed all their children.
Aidlink works with these communities to improve access to basic resources and empower local communities to engage with new opportunities and achieve healthy, fulfilling lifestyles. For over 12 years Aidlink has worked with our local partner the Girl Child Network and the Masai community in Kajiado, Kenya delivering a primary education programme. The programme has delivered major improvements for children and families including; 85% of students completing their end of year exams and significant increased attendance and enrolment. The programme also tackles the harmful cultural practice of female genital mutilation amongst the Masai community
In 2017, building on our experience working the Masai in Kajiado, Aidlink and the Girl Child Network expanded our education programme to reach communities in Turkana County, northern Kenya. The region has suffered from increasingly persistent and severe drought, with 2017 marking the third consecutive year of little to no rain in the county. Increased enrolment in education has benefitted Turkana communities, particularly during drought, as families who sent their children to school report greater resilience to climate shocks. With support from the ILCU Foundation, St. Mary’s College Rathmines and the Irish public, we were able to reach 3,000 malnourished children under 5 and lactating mothers through our emergency feeding programmes and provide 2,240 students at 8 primary schools with daily meals of beans and wheat over an acute 3 month period. We also work to empower young adults who missed out on education opportunities through our one-year Back to School Programme. This has provided young adults with the opportunity to re-engage with education and gain their Primary Leaving Certificate.
Alongside our education programme, working with our partner Caritas Lodwar, we supported 50 families along the river Turkwell in developing an alternative livelihood to pastoralism by providing training on sustainable farming and access to drilled water. This allows them to grow enough food to sustain themselves and they are now starting to grow cash crops that will boost their income from farming. Thankfully, 2018 has seen the arrival of substantial rain in Turkana, though the threat of climate-related emergencies remains.
In 2017 we further expanded our pastoralist programme, across the border to the Karamoja region of Uganda. During the year working with our local partner VAD, we supported the construction of 5 boreholes that have provided 2,000 people with access to clean, safe water within 5km of their homes. These have been constructed on or next to schools so children have not had to miss class to collect water. We have also supported the building of new latrines in schools which has decreased illness and increased school attendance.
Pastoralist communities throughout Kenya and Uganda are among the poorest and most isolated communities in the world. Working with our long-standing local partner organisations, Aidlink’s programme of work over the period 2017-2020 will focus on rights and needs of the Masai, Turkana and Karamojong communities, particularly women and children.
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