Improving nutrition of women and children in Kenya with the support of Belgium
Despite harsh climatic conditions, Africa’s drylands support millions of people and contribute significantly to Kenya’s national economy, primarily through livestock products. However, these same areas are currently also bearing some of the heaviest burdens of climate change.
With increasing population numbers, more frequent droughts and ever greater restrictions on people’s mobility, indicators show chronic levels of malnutrition that are well in excess of internationally recognized emergency thresholds. In many areas, this is despite significant investment in both disaster response mechanisms and social protection programmes.
Livelihoods in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas are predominantly pastoral, meaning they are heavily dependent on livestock. The ability to move around in order to access adequate pasture and water sources is therefore essential if animals are to remain productive across the seasons. Unfortunately, population increases within pastoral communities and the expansion of agriculture have reduced pastoralists’ mobility, leading to greater competition for available grazing areas. The higher frequency of drought has further limited forage for livestock, a decline in which is directly correlated to a decline in child nutrition levels. Animal products such as milk, meat and blood form an essential source of food for pastoralists, with children under five years of age in some communities obtaining up to two-thirds of their daily energy intake from milk.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is researching how providing animal feed and nutrition counselling can improve nutrition levels for pastoral households during critical dry periods. With the financial contribution of Belgium through its Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation (SFERA), FAO will provide 250 tonnes of nutrient-dense animal feed ranch cubes and procure veterinary drugs and equipment for livestock in Marsabit County in Kenya, targeting 1 800 households (or 10 800 people). FAO is working in partnership with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Washington State University, Kenya’s National Drought Management Agency, a Kenyan national NGO and the Marsabit county government to meet the goal of protecting children under five years of age and pregnant and lactating womenagainst seasonal spikes in acute malnutrition during times of drought.