At least 2,000 residents of Pandanguo, Jima and Madina villages in Lamu are facing an acute shortage of food and water.
The three villages bordering the Boni forest are occupied by the Boni minority community, who are traditionally hunters and gatherers.
Shortly after the national government launched Operation Linda Boni to flush out Al-Shabaab militants from the dense forest in 2015, the Boni were banned from entering the forest.
They were encouraged to ditch their traditional forest life and embrace modern farming so as to escape hunger and become food-secure.
The government had also pledged to meet the community’s needs until the operation was over.
Speaking to Nation.Africa on Wednesday, villagers said they had tried farming but their efforts were futile every season because of droughts.
Pandanguo village headman Adan Golja said it is the second season in a row that crops had failed.
Most of the wells and boreholes that villagers depended on, he said, had dried up, leaving them and their livestock reeling in thirst.
He appealed for relief food and water from the county and national governments and well-wishers.
He said they have tried planting maize, cassava, simsim, green peas and other crops for their subsistence but the crops died because of the drought.
“It is now the second season that we haven’t harvested anything in our farms. I urge the government to intervene and send relief food and other humanitarian aid to us. We’re suffering,” he said.
Despite the recent decision by the State to allow the Boni to enter some sections of the Boni forest to look for fruits and honey, they were still facing hunger as lack of rain had also resulted in lack of honey and wild fruits altogether, said Makka Bulo, a Boni woman leader in Pandanguo.
Villagers are digging up wild roots to live on as they wait and hope that officials and well-wishers will do something about their plight, she said.
“All farm crops have dried up, leaving us with no food. The continuing drought spell has also led to a lack of edible wild fruits and honey that could have saved the situation. We need urgent assistance,” she said.
More than 2,000 people in Pandanguo and Jima depend on one well in Pandanguo to get water for their domestic use, said Boni community spokesperson Ali Sharuti.
“There is one open fresh-water well used by the community here. The drought has turned the well saline and that is the water we drink and cook with. We have no alternative source of water. Food is also a major problem here,” Mr Sharuti said.
Mwanahamisi Kanyara of Jima village pleaded with the State to consider reintroducing the aid programme introduced in 2015 but which was ended after a few months so as to save the community from the suffering due to food and water shortages.
“When the security operation started in Boni forest, the government pledged to give us food and all other relief help until the operation ends. They only did that for some months and then stopped,” she said.
“We are now suffering. We have nowhere to get food. The little crops we tried to plant have dried up because of the drought and so have the wells here. The situation is bad and we really need help.”
Villagers sometimes must trek as many as 20km in search of food and fresh water at their only nearby town, Witu, said Fatima Bute.
In most cases, she said, they rarely get any water and food or they just get a little, which is not enough to meet their needs.
Hanifa Suleiman, of Madina village in Lamu East, also said residents were suffering from the drought, especially after wells and boreholes dried up.
“Normally, we use Jabias to store our water but now due to the drought, not a single Jabia has water. All the wells and boreholes don’t have water either. We are dying of thirst. We hope help comes soon,” she said.
Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia did not answer our phone calls seeking comment on humanitarian aid pledged seven years ago for Boni forest people by the national government.
Lamu County Emergency Response Services executive Godana Dae said, “I’m in a meeting. I will revert once I’m through.”