Where Herding
is a way of Life...
 Photo of a young Herder
In Kenya, Winrock's CIRCLE partner Dupoto-e-Maa (Dupoto) is working among agro-pastoralist communities in Kajiado district, south of Nairobi. The Kajiado region is prone to drought, and in Spring 2005 was the subject of a food security alert by USAID's Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) network. Life is hard here, and neither livestock nor families will survive if people remain sedentary. In this difficult context, Dupoto is trying to instil the importance of education and dangers of difficult child labour on community members. Dupoto staff prepared the following story about their work under the CIRCLE project.

Sayiorri Meidimari is a 12-year-old boy from Kilonito. When we came across Sayiorri, he was busy watering his family's livestock at a watering point 10km from his home. He was accompanied by his younger brother, 5-year-old Kantai. Not surprisingly, neither of the boys had ever been to school.

In the 30 minutes we were at the watering point, we counted not less than 20 children of school-going age watering livestock, some as young as five years old. Some children were accompanied by adults, but many were on their own.

When asked why they were not in school, most of the children said that it was not up to them to decide. Would they go to school if they were allowed to? Most children answered in the affirmative. Given the reality for Sayiorri and others, however, going to school is not a priority. "Who would look after our cattle?” posed one ten-year-old boy. “If I'm not there to look after them, I may not have any by the time I complete school!” he said.

At that tender age, young boys already own livestock and herding is one way of nurturing and caring for one's possessions. Asked why they cannot hire someone to tend the livestock, most men considered this a waste of money: besides, hired workers cannot always be trusted with one's livelihood. Though many families are beginning to send their children to school, many pastoralists' children continue to work instead. This is largely due to underlying attitudes and beliefs: to most pastoralists, education is still not considered important enough to be allocated resources.

As a matter of fact, many schools in pastoral areas register low enrolment and high drop out rates during drought. This is because most families withdraw their children from school to herd, especially when livestock have to move far from home in search of pasture. Even when grass is in plenty, children absent themselves from school too often as they are used to herding. This has impacted negatively on their performance in school, which sometimes results in demoralization especially when a child is made to repeat classes often, and eventually lack of interest and dropping out.

To address this problem, Dupoto is working with Winrock's CIRCLE project to sensitize the community on the importance of education and the hazards of child labour. The project aims to change community attitudes toward education. Dupoto has helped the school management committee to improve their administrative skills, and has provided beds and mattresses to increase the accommodation capacity of the boarding schools so that children can stay there – and away from domestic chores.

Dupoto is resolutely working with stakeholders from all sides. They are working closely with government agents, including children's officers and law enforcement officials, to sensitize communities on the Kenya Children's Act of 2001 and to apply the law where necessary. Passed in a year when the Kenyan government stated that there were 3-4 million child laborers in the country, part of the Act aims to stop child labor and ensure education for all children.

Some local area chiefs have accompanied the Dupoto team on field trips and provided names of out-of-school children, some of whom have since been enrolled. In one field trip, an old man who had refused to take his daughters to school was arrested by the police, who then took the girls to a nearby school. The man was later released after understanding the seriousness of the matter. Dupoto has learned that awareness creation does work, as attitudes and perceptions change over time.