Samburu, Marsabit and Isiolo Counties have many problems in common:
Northern Kenya is an arid and semi-arid area where rainfall is scarce and unreliable. The environment is unwelcoming to would-be investors so the only economic activities possible are pastoralism (herding animals) and small-scale retail trade. Grazing land has become increasingly scarce because of population growth and the establishment of wildlife reserves and urban settlements. There is increased demand for diminishing resources, leading to desertification which exacerbates the problem.
Northern Kenya borders the conflict-struck countries of Sudan, Ethiopia and Somali. It has historically been regarded as hostile territory. Despite forming about two thirds of the entire country, Northern Kenya is isolated from the rest of the country by its lack of infrastructure. There are no tarmac roads and no public transport; instead people have to hire a place on a truck transporting goods and livestock. Access to basic social services such as health and education is also very low.
The communities of Northern Kenya are largely disenfranchised from the political processes in Kenya. Projects which intend to help them rarely start from the needs of the pastoralists. This is because few have the benefit of education to enable them articulate their problems and contribute to decisions concerning them.
Poverty and food shortage
The districts of Northern Kenya are ranked among the poorest in Kenya. More than 80% of the population depends on food relief, especially during periods of drought. Even where services such as education and health are available, they are unaffordable for most families.
Illiteracy and lack of education
Northern Kenya has one of the lowest primary school enrolment rates and one of the highest dropout rates in Kenya. Many people are illiterate and attach little value to education.
Many different communities live in Northern Kenya and use the same resources of land and water. Tribal clashes, with livestock rustling and banditry, are a common occurrence in many areas.
The diversity of culture is one of the beauties of Northern Kenya but there are certain practices that impact adversely on the lives of children and young people. Circumcision rites, early marriages, early pregnancies, parental preference for boys, the role of children as herders and in household chores all result in children dropping out of school before they complete primary education.