If not cattle raider, what other career options are there?Cattle raids have long been part of life in the communities around the Kenyan-Ugandan border, but as part of a larger strategy for peace in the area, the Danish Demining Group (DDG) and local leaders are trying to show youth that other career options exists.
By: Sara Schlüter
Lodwar is located in Northwestern Kenya. The town and surrounding areas have a population of around 150 000 people and lies in the heart of the Turkana County. Daily life there revolves around pastoralism. If one asks people whether or not they are pastoralists, they will look baffled and reply, "Of course".
Livestock are an integral part of life in Turkana and the neighboring regions, and for as long as anyone can remember, so are cattle raids.
"It has always been that way," says Raphael Locham, who runs the DDG office in Lodwar.
Alternative Career Options
"This place used to be a battle ground," he says suddenly and points out of the window while driving from Lodwar to Lorengippi, a location in Loima subcounty bordering Pokot and Uganda, around 60 miles to the southwest.
But in the last couple of years, DDG has implemented comprehensive work on community safety through its Armed Violence Reduction (AVR) project. The organization has facilitated dialogue at the local level and across the border between Kenya and Uganda, building trust and strengthening the relationship between security providers and local communities.
"Cattle raiding is a rite of passage for the youth and a way of replenishing the lost herd through drought. There has not been much influence from outside and they are simply not aware that you can live in any other way," says Raphael Locham.
DDG and local authorities have joined hands to educate youth on the dangers of armed violence and try to show them that there are other career options out there than cattle raids.
"We try to show them that there are other ways to live your life," says Sammy Tioko, who is the acting chief of Lokiriama.
He works closely with DDG and has been to several trainings offered by the organization and recently participated in a DDG course on mediation and conflict resolution.
"One of the things we do is to recommend that people sell some of their cattle before the dry season starts, so they do not die of thirst. They can then invest the money in a business and increase their income. Others can become construction workers, where the government is building new infrastructure. Or they can join a savings and loans group and get the opportunity to start a business through this," says Sammy Tioko.
Photo Credit: Klaus Bo / Danish Refugee Council