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Early warning system to cut livestock mortality

'Drought doesn't just happen,' Dr. Onditi explains (© FAO/Ami Vitale)
"Drought doesn't just happen," Dr. Onditi explains
© FAO/Ami Vitale

In north eastern Kenya, a new early warning system will use water levels as an indicator of impending drought in order to initiate intervention measures months before disaster strikes. Using smart phones, pastoralists have been trained to collect data about water levels of rivers and other water sources, which is then made available to relief agencies and National Disaster Response coordinators.

"Drought doesn't just happen," explains Dr. Job Onditi, a scientist who has been actively involved in the project. "Drought is a set of predictable events which can be noted in advance and be avoided, which is why this real time warning system should be welcome news. We monitor how water levels are dropping within various water pans and if the drop is uniform among more than three pans we immediately start close monitoring."

Dubbed the Waterhole Monitoring System and funded by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the electronic system is a departure from the past where voluminous paperwork would take an average of three months to interpret an imminent drought. The system also promises to address conflict between pastoralist communities in the area who fight over limited pasture. Already according to government record some 300 pastoralists have died this year alone due to inter-community conflicts.

Written by: Bob Koigi

Date published: December 2011

 

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