Tradition meets tech as Kenya's herders adapt to climate change

phys.org | 4/1/2014 | Staff
DebraS (Posted by) Level 3
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For generations, Kaltuma Hassan's clan would study the sky over Kenya's arid north for any sign of rain—some wind here, a wisp of cloud there—to guide their parched livestock to water.

But such divination has been rendered hopeless by intensifying droughts. Days on foot can reveal nothing more than bone-dry riverbeds and grazing land baked to dust, sounding the death knell for their herd.

Distance - Way - Life - Hassan - AFP

"You might go a long distance, and they die on the way... It is a very hard life," Hassan told AFP in Marsabit, a sparse and drought-prone expanse where millions of pastoral families depend entirely on livestock to survive.

Today, she leaves less to chance.

Relies - Rainfall - Forecasts - Message - Kenyan

The 42-year-old relies on detailed rainfall forecasts received via text message from a Kenyan tech firm to plan her migrations, a simple but life-changing resource for an ancient community learning to adapt to increasing weather extremes.

Nomadic livestock herders in East Africa's drylands have endured climate variability for millennia, driving their relentless search for water and pasture in some of the world's most inhospitable terrain.

Resilience - Climate - Change - Rethink - Wisdom

But their resilience is being severely tested by climate change, forcing a rethink to traditional wisdom passed down for generations.

Kenya endures a severe drought every three to five years, the World Bank says, but they are increasing in frequency and intensity, and temperatures are rising too.

Conditions - Hassan - Relies - Warriors - Grazing

With conditions ever-more unreliable, Hassan no longer relies on warriors she once dispatched to scout for suitable grazing land for her cattle.

"They wake up very early in the morning and they look at the clouds, they look at the moon, to predict. I use this now," she said, scrolling through customised weather updates on her phone, sent via SMS in Rendille, a local language.

Service - Weather - Data - US - Intelligence

The service uses advanced weather data from US agricultural intelligence firm aWhere to provide subscribers with rain and forage conditions for the week ahead...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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