Providing relief and boosting recovery for thousands of herder families


October 18, 2011

Mercy Corps has been awarded a $2.5 million grant for relief and recovery efforts in the Horn of Africa. The grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will enable Mercy Corps to provide immediate relief for pastoralists and their families in drought-affected communities of northeastern Kenya, bolster long-term economic recovery, and help communities become more resilient to drought in the future.

“We’re thankful for this support to continue our work responding to the region’s worst drought in 60 years,” said Neal Keny-Guyer, Mercy Corps’ CEO. “While public attention focuses on needs in Somalia and huge displacement camps like Dadaab, families in Kenya’s northeastern villages are quietly struggling for survival. Some of these families haven’t seen rainfall in three years. The grant will help them get emergency relief, and start on the long road to full recovery.”

Mercy Corps’ 26-month program will start with emergency interventions for an estimated 18,300 people in Kenya’s Wajir County, on the border with Somalia. The agency will distribute vouchers, enabling families to buy food for themselves and their animals. This will boost local markets – where food is available – and provide critical nourishment. In addition, Mercy Corps will incentivize livestock buyers to purchase sick or undernourished animals from herders at fair prices. This will allow pastoral families to reduce their immediate costs and recover some of their losses.

Mercy Corps will also help boost long-term economic recovery of 42,000 people in the region through a mix of interventions to rejuvenate and diversify the predominantly livestock-based economy. An “animals-for-work” program will provide families with vouchers to purchase livestock in return for time spent improving water infrastructure – from deepening wells to removing animal carcasses from communal water points. Various other animal health and rangeland management strategies will help herder families thrive in the future.

Economic diversification is another key component of Mercy Corps’ strategy in northeastern Kenya. The agency will conduct technical and business trainings that help people, particularly women and youth, weather economic shocks and improve their long-term prospects. Trainings will focus on building peoples’ abilities to diversify their incomes, better manage their finances, and increase their earning potential through microenterprise.

Finally, as natural resource scarcity tends to exacerbate conflicts, the grant will support the creation of Village Relief Committees, comprised of elders and other community representatives. These committees will be trained on how to anticipate and mitigate conflict, as well as how to manage and protect newly rehabilitated water resources.

The foundation’s grant will expand Mercy Corps’ already significant aid efforts in more than 30 villages in Wajir Country. This work is part of Mercy Corps’ broader response to the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in 60 years. The agency is working in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia – including the capital city of Mogadishu – to help 900,000 people get immediate access to food, water and income, and become more resilient to drought in the long term.