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Drought in Kenya

There has been severe drought for several years in the neighbouring countries to the north of Kenya and in the arid semi-desert along Kenya's remote north-eastern border with Somalia and Ethiopia, where the pastoral people dependent on livestock are facing problems and hardship as there is no grazing for their cattle, sheep and goats. Recent reports in the international media about drought in the Horn of Africa have caused concern to travellers who are anxious that this will affect their planned safari. However for some years now the Kenyan government and international agencies have been providing relief supplies for people in the area including those coming across the border into Kenya and seeking assistance. The Kenyan authorities are continuing to provide a concerted relief programme to alleviate the crisis and the tourism industry in Kenya is also contributing to the relief effort through donations to the Kenya Red Cross which is providing assistance to people affected by the drought along Kenya's north-eastern border. However the north-east of Kenya is not an area visited by tourists and the severe drought there is not widespread across the rest of the country. Kenya is primarily an agricultural country (currently the world's biggest exporter of tea) and the drought in the northeast has not had the same impact in other parts of the country where the wildlife parks and reserves are located. Also it should be noted that the Western area of Kenya, which is the main farming region, has experienced good rains recently and farmers are reporting that a bumper crop of maize will be harvested this year.

It must be stressed that within Kenya there are different climatic zones and that much of the country has had plenty of rain recently so that maize and wheat harvests are projected to be at higher than normal levels. Kenya is a very different country from those afflicted by drought in the Horn of Africa as it has a highly productive agricultural sector but unfortunately the media reports do not always make clear that in Kenya the drought is confined to certain arid or semi-desert regions and does not affect the whole country. Within the wildlife reserves, the wild animals are adapted to survive cyclical periods of drought, unlike domestic livestock.

Many Kenyan pastoralists such as the Maasai now rely on income from tourism in the community-owned conservancies as an alternative to being wholly dependent on livestock, so visitors can be assured that by coming to Kenya they are helping to create an income and benefits for the local people, such help which is much appreciated especially during periods of drought. The Mara has had good rains in recent weeks and right now is green with good grazing in the Mara Reserve and the neighboring wildlife conservancies. The annual wildebeest migration is now underway in the Mara and visitors currently are experiencing exceptionally good game viewing! If you would like to donate to the drought relief please visit East Africa Crisis Appeal - DEC