LOLGORIEN DIVISION, KENYA – It is about 2 p.m. and the sun feels unbearably hot.
A Masai herdsman is preparing fodder for his dairy cows before he can start milking them.
He chops Napier grass, a long, drought-resistant tropical grass he grows in a section of his 40-acre farm. He throws the harvested grass into a wheelbarrow.
In the background, cow bells ring, alerting the herdsman that his 500 cattle are on their way home from the grazing fields.
The Napier grass offsets the effects of the drought that ravaged Sokonoi, a village in Lolgorien division, about 278 kilometers (172 miles) west of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, from April 2014 to end of July.
The village has experienced recurrent droughts, and rainfall has become irregular over the past 10 years, says the herdsman, Richard Sindau.
“The rains fall for two to three days, then disappear for months,” he says.
But Sindau says he no longer worries about droughts because he is growing crops that can sustain his family and herd in dry times.
Before Sindau started growing Napier and other hardy grass varieties two years ago, his dairy cows and other animals would grow weak during the region’s recurring droughts, he says. Some animals would die.
“Three years ago, I lost five cows at the same time to drought,” he says.
But in 2012, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, in partnership with agricultural extension officers employed by the government, started a farming program in Sindau’s division and the neighboring Kirindon division.
They taught Sindau and other herders how to grow fodder crops, which are cultivated for animal feed, and food crops that can withstand harsh weather.
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