Conflict fears as wildfires destroy pasture, cause displacement

Residents along Isiolo, Wajir and Garissa borders are accusing one another over the cause of a wildfire which has destroyed large tracks of grassland in northern Kenya. This has given rise to fears of conflicts between pastoralist communities amid the current serious food crisis.

Borana Cattle Photo: Vivian Onyango

An IRIN report interview with a Wajir resident, Ibrahim Mohamed, said the fire is suspected to have been started by a cartel of traders who are hoping to secure aid agencies’ and government contracts to supply fodder in the region. A fortnight ago, residents of the Habaswein area of Wajir barricaded a road to prevent trucks ferrying hay, accusing the truck owners of being behind the inferno.

The districts of Wajir North, South and West are the most affected with the fire spreading to parts of neighbouring Isiolo. "The wildfire which broke out last month but was stopped, started again two weeks ago and burnt more areas we have not visited… Extensive rangeland has been affected,” the forest officer said.

"We have lost a number of livestock, mainly calves, weak and sick animals that were not able to move quickly,” Adan Dualle, a Wajir resident told IRIN, adding: “Two people burnt by the fire are still at Wajir District Hospital.”

Some herders have been forced to migrate further north towards Moyale with some crossing the border into Ethiopia. “We are already faced with a shortage of pasture. While we had enough just last month, I am afraid the situation will be worse if it fails to rain,” said Dualle.

At least 500 families from the Biyamadow, Dadachabulla and Sarif areas have been displaced and forced to move to neighbouring districts, he added. A further 150 families had also been forced to flee from Berami Villlage to the Bute and Buna areas, according to a Wajir North District resident, Hussein Nurow.
 

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