Mechanisms of Coping with Recurrent Droughts: A Case of Livestock Farmers in Murang'a Sub-County, Murang'a County, Kenya

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Ngugi, Martha Wanjiku
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Kenyatta University
One third of the African people live in drought prone areas. Drought is the most limiting factor in agricultural production in Sub Saharan Africa. The disaster is exacerbated by lack of adequate coping mechanisms which is often disaster response rather than prevention. A case study on drought coping mechanisms was conducted among livestock farmers in Murang'a South Sub-County of Murang'a County in central Kenya. The purpose of the study was to determine the strategies used by livestock farmers to cope with recurrent droughts. The objectives were: to find out how livestock farmers in the study area perceive drought, to identify the effects of drought, to find out how livestock farmers counteract the problem of drought to reduce vulnerability and to determine the constraints faced by the livestock farmers in their attempt to cope with drought. Descriptive survey research design was used. Stratified random sampling was applied to select a sample of two hundred households. The primary sampling unit was an individual household. Data was collected by administering a semi-structured questionnaire to two hundred livestock farmers. Data on perception of drought, preparation in readiness for drought, the effects of droughts on livestock farmers and their households as well as their strategies in responses to disturbances and changes during drought were investigated. The factors exacerbating vulnerability were also investigated. The generated data were subjected to statistical analysis using SPSS. Descriptive statistics such as percentages and frequencies were used to summarize the data which was presented using tabulations, histograms and pie charts. The relationships between the variables were analyzed by the Chi- square non parametric test. Findings of the study revealed that majority (98.5%) of the livestock farmers' perceived drought as a serious environmental hazard regardless of their gender and education level. Majority (71%) of the livestock farmers experienced death of their livestock during drought. Other major effects of drought included; food and water scarcity and increase in absenteeism of children from school. There was a negative relationship between farmers' education level and death of animals during drought (chi- square test df =4, p<0.05 (14.909). To cope with drought, the farmers sought alternative employment, received government assistance and engaged in casual labour. Some of the measures used to cope with drought differed significantly across education level. The major constraints faced by the livestock farmers in their attempt to cope with drought were Iow value of livestock, poverty, pests and diseases, and high prices of foodstuffs. From the study, it was concluded that, livestock farmers in Murang'a South Sub-County were not coping with drought in a sustainable way as their sufferings were substantial. Based on the study findings, with the frequency and intensity of drought there is need for effective capacity building on drought, its signals and sustainable coping strategies to reduce vulnerability. Dissemination of information on adverse climate should be done to the livestock farmers in good time to enable them make early preparations. Further research is suggested on assessment of the best ways of linking farmers to markets during drought to reduce losses.
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of a degree of masters in environment al studies (climate change and sustainability) in the school of environmental studies of Kenyatta University, September 2015