|   Posted: December 15, 2022

As drought ravages the Horn of Africa, local churches are distributing emergency food packages and teaching families sustainable food-production practices.

Kenyan Families and Churches Pray for Rain

As drought ravages the Horn of Africa, local churches are distributing emergency food packages and teaching families sustainable food-production practices.

Story and photos by Kevin Ouma, Compassion Kenya Photojournalist
hands hold a small plant in the dirt

Dark clouds hung above the village, signaling the advent of the rainy season. To the untrained eye, it looked a predictable sight — and yet, the rain did not fall.

It rained in May, enough for the crops to sprout. Then it stopped, and the sun scorched the surface. Four months later, most plants were drooping, and others were long dead.

In September 2021, Kenya’s president declared the drought a national disaster.

This announcement followed failed rains for the third consecutive season in eastern and northern Kenya. Critical drought conditions have caused worsening food security for about 3.5 million people. A major locust invasion in 2021 and 2022, the first in 75 years, led to the further loss of crops.

The situation on the ground is now desperate. Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority estimates that close to 1 million children under age 5 from 12 affected counties are acutely malnourished.

Rain Used To Be Predictable

Catherine, a single mother of three, lives with her daughters and mother in one of those affected counties. Her 8-year-old daughter, Stella, is sponsored through Compassion.

Catherine farms millet, cowpeas and green grams (mung beans) every year. “Rain used to be predictable. It rained consistently, and I knew when to plant and harvest,” she says.

Things have been different since 2021.

“Early in the year, it rained, and locusts invaded our farms when we were about to harvest. We lost most of what we had planted,” says Catherine.

Without successful crops, Catherine collects and sells firewood to provide for her children. But during this crisis, how can she both feed her children and pay school fees?

Churches Relieving Burdens

Catherine’s family, and many others in affected regions, received food baskets from their local Compassion centers.

“The food we received from the church came as a relief; I got a call telling me of the two-month assistance,” says Catherine. “I had been considering leaving my old mother with the children so I could go to look for work elsewhere.”

With the relief from church support, Catherine can continue with the firewood business, focusing on paying school fees while she knows there is food at home.

The food that Catherine receives can sustain her family for three weeks at a time.

Catherine and her daughter, Stella, hold food packages

Answering Their Prayers

But without church support, many other affected families have had to find different ways to earn a living.

“We have seen many women like Catherine going into construction work and burning charcoal to earn money to buy food for the families,” says Benedict, a church staff member.

“The biggest need regarding food security is access to water. The land is fertile, but without water, food cannot grow,” says Benedict. “As a church, we are working to educate and support parents on new agricultural practices toward more sustained food production without relying on rain.”

Families across the Horn of Africa are facing the threat of starvation, with 41-50% of average rainfall poorly distributed, causing crop failure. High food prices have also impacted households’ purchasing power. Kenya has received less than 60% of its normal rain based on the 40-year average across most of the country. As the drought continues, Kitui County is likely to move from an alarm phase to an acute phase unless it rains.

As the dark, empty clouds gather in the sky, Catherine along with many other parents look to the heavens and pray for rain. For as long as the crisis persists, Compassion is committed to being an answer to those prayers.

Answer Hunger With Hope

Your partnership ensures that support will continue through food baskets for families, cash transfers for small businesses and training and support for sustainable farming.