LAMU, Kenya – (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As Mohammed Ngalo brushes his teeth with a twig, he looks up to the sky for a sign that rain is coming.

“The April rains started late and stopped early, while the October rains were less abundant than usual, reducing our pastures,” the herder explained.

Since 2013, Ngalo and his family of five have been away from their traditional grazing grounds in Kenya’s Garissa county, searching for increasingly scarce food and water for their cattle.

After a 300 km trek by foot to Wajir county, they moved on to Lamu county in January with their cows. But even here they are finding more pastoralists and animals than grass and water.

“The Lamu forest belt has always had grass even when other grazing fields are dry – but it seems everyone has converged here,” said Ngalo, shaking his head.

As climate change brings more weather extremes, including droughts, pastoralists need better information to make good decisions about their herds. But most still lack even basic help tracking weather patterns and grass and water availability.

An initiative launched in March, however, aims to change that. The Weather Information Services for Africa (WISER) program, backed by the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), hopes to help 400,000 households in East Africa access early warning weather and climate information and help them make more informed decisions.

The program delivers simple climate information via radio programs held weekly or more frequently if needed.


Such help may be one way to avert livestock losses and forced migration, said Joseph Mukabana, regional director for Africa and the Least Developed Countries at the World Meteorological Organization.

Access to reliable weather information and early warning systems could help pastoralists like Ngalo prepare for more erratic weather and make better decisions, he said.

Yazan Elhadi, research coordinator at the Adaptation Consortium…