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The Villages

Sauri, Kenya
Dertu, Kenya
Koraro, Ethiopia
Pampaida, Nigeria
Ikaram, Nigeria
Bonsaaso, Ghana
Mayange, Rwanda
Mwandama, Malawi
Potou, Senegal
Tiby, Mali
Toya, Mali
Mbola, Tanzania
Ruhiira, Uganda
Dertu, Kenya

Dertu, Kenya
Dertu Research Millennium Village | 5,000 residents

Overview - Millennium Villages Highlights - Village Characteristics


The Dertu Millennium Village is located in the Northeastern Province of Kenya, approximately 140 km from the Kenya-Somali border. The village is home to an estimated population of 5,206 residents (August, 2006), predominantly of the Kenyan Auliyahan ethnic Somali community.

Dertu is a low lying area with an altitude of 150-300m above sea level and is situated within the Ewaso Nyiro river basin. The area is covered by sandy clay-loam soils derived from sedimentary rocks. The village is characterized by arid climate with an average annual rainfall of about 350mm. The rains consist of long and short rains received in April-June and October-December respectively. The short rains are usually more reliable. Before the October-December 2006 rains the area had not received sufficient rainfall since the El-Nino rains of 1997.

The village is characterized by high poverty levels and for years there has been a high level of dependency on food aid donated by the Government, World Food Programme (WFP) and Red Cross. The vicious cycle of poverty is due to multiple and complex interwoven problems including acute food shortages as a result of recurrent droughts, unreliable and erratic rainfall, subsequent floods and outbreaks of pests and diseases, inappropriate and inadequate technical interventions and approaches including isolation from markets and market insecurity. Malnutrition, high maternal and child mortality, illiteracy, overgrazing and poor infrastructure are rampant in the area.



The development challenges in Dertu are many yet there are minimal coping strategies in place for diversification of livelihood from the predominantly pastoral way of life. The climate (unreliable and erratic rainfall) limits diversification opportunities into other forms of agricultural production. The pastoralists who lose their livestock to the recurrent droughts stream into Dertu to look for alternative livelihoods.

The project has spearheaded mass vaccination and treatment of camels, cattle, goats, sheep and donkeys in Dertu and surrounding villages in coordination with the District Veterinary Office. It also promoted the use of drought-tolerant and early-maturing maize, sorghum, sesame, onion, and cowpeas.


The project successfully lobbied the government for one additional teacher. It promoted girls’ school attendance by distributing sanitary towels to menstruating girls, and building in-town boarding facilities for nomadic boys and girls.


The only health facility in the area has been improved by providing a generator, and by successfully negotiating one more government nurse to staff it. The project also distributed 2,890 insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets (2,650 nets from Sumitomo and 240 from the Ministry of Health).

It provided health outreach services for pastoralists who are widely scattered throughout the neighboring areas. In close coordination with the Government, UNICEF and Red Cross, the project provided emergency relief after a massive flood in November 2006.


In collaboration with Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the Red Cross, the project supplied water purification tablets during flood time. It also procured an injector pump for the village borehole. It distributed 19 UNICEF-sponsored pit latrine slabs.



Dertu represents the pastoralist farming system at the desert margins of tropical Africa. The village lies in the arid Sahel zone, a pastoral area with potential for small-scale irrigation (when fresh water sources are available). Rainfall in Dertu is erratic and unreliable. A good rainy season occurs every five to six years after a dry spell, making Dertu a common site for recurrent drought and famine.

The livelihood system in Dertu is based on nomadic pastoralism coupled with some small scale businesses. The residents of Dertu keep large herds of animals and move from place to place in search of water and pasture. Animals graze in nearby pastures in rainy periods but move hundreds of kilometers away in dry seasons. As the intensity of drought increases, the livestock population around the reliable water sources increases, causing overgrazing and environmental degradation.

Young and able-bodied men and women mostly do the herding but at times entire families move together, establishing temporary homes called “manyattas” wherever they go. A “manyatta” consists of related homesteads or those with common interest such as traditional Quranic teaching mobile madarassa called “Duksi”. An average pastoral farmer keeps eight camels and cattle respectively and 39 goats/sheep.

Since livestock is the only livelihood strategy in the village, there is limited diversification in terms of food production. Despite the high livestock population in the area, milk production is limited especially during dry seasons due to inadequate pasture/forage. At the trading center most of the households are forced to use powdered milk, coupled with lack of vegetables and fruits in the area. This raises the malnutrition levels in the village, which is estimated at 18% - necessitating a supplementary feeding program for children who are less than five years-old, lactating mothers, pregnant women and the elderly.


There is only one health facility for the entire Dertu Location, which is a government dispensary serving 5,000 people. The dispensary is inadequately staffed with two nurses and a village health worker. The facility only operates during normal government working hours. The facility is also poorly equipped as there is no flowing piped water and the solar panel that was fitted is not enough to supply power for refrigeration. In addition, the kerosene and gas powered refrigerators are faulty, which means that no vaccines can be stored at the facility.

Lack of a maternity wing and an observation ward at the dispensary has made it difficult to attend to patients from the facility during late hours. As a result the nurses at the dispensary are forced to visit patients at their homes. The pastoralists are disadvantaged because most of them come from very far away yet they have nowhere to stay at the centre for medical attention. Furthermore, the dispensary lacks laboratory services and most of the diagnosis done is based on clinical symptoms. With laboratory services there would be more accurate treatment and this would be a substantial boost towards fighting major diseases.


The village has one primary school with only seven rooms, one of which is partitioned into a staff room and a teaching class. The school has six teachers, five of whom are paid by the government and one by the community. A female teacher heads the school. The teachers at the school have poor accommodation and office facilities, resulting in low morale. There are only two semi-permanent structures set up by the community that are shared by the teachers for their accommodation. These structures are in pathetic conditions. The situation is worsened by lack of decent accommodation facilities at the Dertu centre. Furthermore, most of the teachers are not from the village. With suitable structures, posting teachers to the primary school will be much easier.

The literacy level in Dertu is estimated at about 17% for men and at 8% women, while that of the pastoralist could be as low as five percent.


There are two boreholes located within a distance of 50m from each other. A fee is charged for domestic and livestock water retrieval. The boreholes and the revenue generated are managed by a water users association. The money generated is used to pay for diesel and maintenance of the borehole and proceeds go to the community.

Water is provided to livestock using troughs placed outside the fenced boreholes. Up to 12,000 heads of livestock could be watered in a single day from the boreholes during the dry season. The high livestock population is causing environmental degradation (vegetation and soil) around the boreholes. The borehole water is assumed to be of good quality and is used without any treatment. Currently there is no piped water going to the homesteads at the trading centre and some households draw water from the animal watering troughs illegally.

In most cases it is the women and children who fetch water for domestic use. In Dertu essential public health care packages like sanitation deliveries and hygiene are inadequate. In terms of sanitation and hygiene there are a few latrines which could be hazardous in case of an outbreak like cholera. The pastoralists use bush toilets while the sedentary community use both bush and pit latrines. However, almost all the existing latrines either collapsed or were filled during the floods, thereby contaminating the water sources.