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A Time for Animals

I spent the last week out on the planes of Kenya playing with cows and a few other animals. This project is with KARI (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute) and they are developing a vaccine that has a long shelf life and doesn’t need refrigeration (a problem in most of Africa) to eradicate CBPP (Contagious Bovine PleuroPneumonia). It was eradicated in most of the world in the mid 20th century but the heat in Africa has been a hurdle there. There are basically three areas of cattle ranching involved in the project. 1] Commercial Ranching (large scale ranching)  2] Pastoralists (Small herders that constantly are on the move)  3] Small Zero Grazing (Small farmers who keep their livestock in corals).

We were suppose to go out to Ijara to shoot for 3 days but due to the bombing in Nairobi the Friday I arrived, the security all over Kenya has really changed. We spent a full day trying to decide if we would go to Garassa then Southeast to Ijara, an area by the southern border with Somalia. I was working with the people from KARI and they were trying to reach the district counsel to try to get security to go with us. They thought about putting me in a turban and long white or beige cape, but after 6 hours of meetings and finding that the IDRC (who’s financing the project) won’t allow their employees to travel to the red zone, they decided to cancel the trip feeling it was just too dangerous. We decided to go north to Nanyuki and on the way up in the car, it was on the radio there was a bombing in Garassa that day, so now everyone decided we made the right choice.

Nanyuki sits right on the equator, it actually goes right through the middle of the town. However it sits above 6,000 feet in elevation and every morning when we were leaving at 6 am you could see your breath. Yes, with only clothes for the heat of West Africa I was cold!

This is the reason I was spending so much time playing with cows! The first day we ended up in a 90,000-acre conservatory that had 7,000 head of cattle and 15,000 wildlife of all kinds, unfortunately most of which I didn’t run across. However I did see a few species and it was great, I hadn’t seen wild animals outside of a zoo in quite a long time.



(All Blog photographs © Bartay)










I was a bit disappointed though because they wouldn’t let me out of the car, I wanted to get closer! But when we found the cattle, they did let me out and I wondered around the plains and got my chance to play with the cows. These are Boran cattle and mind you, you are always walking with your head down watching where you’re stepping.




I met these two herders who where extremely open and very willing to have themselves photographed.




Visiting Kenya for the second time I remember how it is wide open and the mountains just pop up off the plain. Nanyuki and the surrounding area we were in are on the Northwest side of Mt. Kenya. It rained all three days we were out there but usually not for more than ½ hour. The wind is really blowing this time of year and the storms would just blow in, rain and blow out again.




Driving along a variety of dirt roads we would run across quite a few of the ‘Pastoralists’ who were constantly on the move, moving their small herds (20 ~ 30 head) looking for new grazing grounds or water.




It can be very far between areas of water, so at this one area quite a ways out there was a well and a trough where all the Pastoralists knew they could bring their herds to get water. So there is always a gathering of a large amount of cattle from quite a few Pastoralists gathered at any given time.




On our way back from the watering hole, off in the bush we saw some herders who had set up ‘home’ so we stopped. The Doctors I was with knew they were Somali’s so I stayed in the car until they went up and spoke to them to explain what we were doing and would they mind if I took pictures. I obviously don’t speak the language so I would have looked rather dumb anyway! But after a few minutes they waved me over to meet them and photograph them and their ‘mobile’ home.

This is Beshar Sarif and his wife Sahara Ali Adun.




There were about 20 of them living in this area at the time. This is Beshar and Sahra’s home, their bedroom, their kitchen and penstock for their baby livestock. After a period of time or the grazing in the area gets too slim, they move on.




The project is also trying to get the women more involved in the vaccination of the livestock, where this has traditionally been taken care of by the men. So a lot of the women are doing more and more activities taking care of the herd. This woman, Habiel Wario is cutting dried grass to gather and store for feeding her family’s livestock. That’s Sadia, her daughter, helping out.




I thought it might be an idea to show a little bit of behind the scene work and what’s happening on the other side of that photograph. This first one, we were looking for unhealthy or diseased cows and we found a small heard early one morning that didn’t look well. I had given one of my cameras to Tom, our driver, and he started taking pictures of me taking pictures. As you can see this cow was extremely thin and it’s hindquarters were almost non-existent.







Later we had a farmer take his small heard into a communal holding pen, so we could bring them into the shoot to make vaccination easier. The existing vaccine is administered through the tip of the tail, though the new one is going to be administered under the skin in the neck.

One cow a couple of head to my back got so riled he jumped up and over the shoot fence. I was hoping the cow I’m standing next too decided NOT to do the same.







It’s been wonderful being back in Kenya, although the security problem with the Kenyan’s being at war with Al Shebab has created quite a bit of problems for them. Here in Nairobi they have lots of malls, about every 15 or 20 blocks and is usually about 4 or 5 stories tall with every kind of store you’d want. After last year’s bombing and take over of the Westfield Mall, the security at every mall has drastically changed. Every car is searched all around it, inside, the trunk, and even the engine compartment before being allowed into the fenced off parking lot. Then there are metal detectors and security guards checking every person before entering the mall.

I think it’s like a lot of the places I’ve been in the last couple of months like Nigeria and Mali, they accept it and go about their business. They are very happy and friendly people that do wish the troubles would be over and go away. I wish them good luck and a speedy solution, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time back in Kenya.





This entry was posted in Kenya.


  1. Maria Epes May 27, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Great how you appreciate being back at home in Kenya, security or not. And the story of the cattle, the photos of the animals and the herds people are so interesting.

  2. Jennifer May 28, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    A last posting I guess – I have enjoyed following your travels!

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