Not only does it take a toll on Atiir and her own health, but coping measures like this take a toll on the local environment, further degrading it in what becomes a vicious cycle.
Amina Abdulla, Concern’s Country Director in Kenya, explains that when people’s recovery time in between droughts becomes diminished, so too do the coping strategies they can turn to.
“Your coping mechanisms, which include support from relatives and sharing amongst communities, become diminished and you see communities resorting more and more to negative coping strategies. Some of these are actual drivers of the climate conditions that they are experiencing. Things like selling charcoal or firewood involve cutting down trees, it means degrading the environment further just to make ends meet or to survive.”
While droughts can occur in almost all types of climate and are not a new experience for people living in semi-arid terrains such as Turkana, what is new is the frequency with which they are happening. It used to be that they would occur maybe every 15 or 20 years. However, from the late 90s onwards, this cycle was reduced to every five years and over the last decade, it has reduced to every second year. Very simply put, this does not give anywhere near enough time for families to recover and is placing them in increasingly desperate situations.
“The recovery period has become shorter or almost non-existent. If people lost their livestock or their assets and had years to re-build, then recovery might be possible. But when it is every second year, you lose more each cycle. Your ability to bounce back becomes less and less. So it has made people more vulnerable and deepened levels of poverty,” explains Amina.
Certainly for Atiir, she remembers a time when life was easier and her surrounding environment much less hostile.