Yamicha! ‘The calling’ what future for the ‘calling’?

Kenya photovoice

Facilitated by Tahira Shariff

Yamicha is a drought reserve in northern Kenya about 300 km from Isiolo Central. ‘Yamicha’ (inviting) is a centre of livestock grazing and serves as the largest drought reserve. Pastoralists reserve range resources for seasonal use, and all livestock owners are supposed to abide by the rules. However, this is not true for Yamicha, as neighbouring pastoralists have encroached on the place, and use its resources during other seasons, contrary to local Borana practices.

After various discussions with elders, women and young pastoralists, I decided to visit the place to understand the story of Yamicha. The following paragraph summarises why pastoralists consider it ‘handura laafa’ (the nerve-centre) of the rangelands.

“The place is stunning with white loamy soil, thick forest and countless cacti making the shade in the desert extraordinary. Scenic water points, locally called ‘harr’ (pan) and ‘Dololo’ (stream), are accompanied by melodic birdsong. It makes the place a ‘heaven’ on earth. All the plants in the Borana medicinal system are found here. The livestock in Yamicha looked the healthiest I have ever seen and, for the first time in my fieldwork, I received three litres of ghee from Halima in exchange for a few shillings. I found many livestock watered at the  Yamicha borehole,  despite the fact that the ‘dololo’ and ‘harr’ were full of water.

According to Borana resource governance, the use of the borehole pump in the rainy season is illegal. Seasonal pans, streams and the temporary hand-dug well provide water for the wet season and the pump is reserved for the dry period. However, amidst this plentifulness, there is an intense fear of raids and clashes, and the livestock are guarded with guns.

“ Yamicha is a place of ‘calling’ (inviting people) and pastoralists converge despite fears and uncertainties.”

Isaqo Huqa, Elder, Merti Central

Queuing for water at Yamicha borehole pump! Although dams and streams are full, the goats are watered at the borehole, contrary to resource use rules.

Why are the goats ‘caged’ at the borehole and not allowed to quench their thirst from the Yamicha dam?

Yes! ‘We quench the thirst and if need be, ‘swim’ in the dam’. 

Cattle watering at Yamicha ‘haar’ (pan/dam)

Goats and sheep are watered at a water trough at Yamicha, February 2019.

‘Herding with a gun’,  fear in Yamicha. Pastoralists are using the Yamicha resource amidst fear of raids and clashes.

Settlement in the reserve.

“Yamicha is to be used in severe drought only, no settlement, no school and no activities should happen around Yamicha. But now, go and see for yourself: you will find thousands of animals watered at the borehole, families settled and dry season reserve pastures exploited during the wet season. We do not have a future in Yamicha, it is all gone!”

Osman Koricha, Research Participant, Lakole, Merti

Exploring the traditional milk storage container in Yamicha