The government is once again fumbling for solutions as three million citizens face hunger due to drought. The alarm bells have rang. We find ourselves in the same situation we faced in February 2017 when the state declared drought a national disaster. According to Red Cross, Garissa, Wajir, isiolo, Tana River, Kajiado and Kilifi are in the red this month, and water shortage is evident even in regions that have been traditionally water secure.
On Friday, Red Cross Secretary General Abas Gullet, accompanied by Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, asked Kenyans to donate to supplement the Sh3.8 billion the State had set aside to address the crisis. Red Cross is seeking Sh1 billion to fund its 2018 drought response.
The script is the same. Each year drought strikes, an appeal is tossed, and a fund set up to coordinate relief efforts. Kenyans recall July 2011 when the ‘KenyansforKenyans’ initiative was set up. That year, 3.7 million Kenyans faced starvation and 380,000 children suffered acute malnutrition. When the grand coalition government tried to conserve the Mau Complex in 2009, it became a political pawn. Local politicians, guided by parochial interests, used it to set locals against conservation.
And yesterday, the government issued a moratorium banning logging in public and community forests in yet another belated attempt to end activities that threaten water towers. Every year, we take same knee-jerk measures and expect different results. Regrettably, we are out of sync with environmental reality. To get off this road to ruin, county and national governments should invest in early warning systems.
The impacts of drought can be reduced through sufficient preparedness. It is also vital to sensitise farmers to utilise water from deep aquifers instead of surface water. Again, we should triple investments in food production. Projects like Galana Kulalu should guarantee food security.
The National Irrigation Board should roll out a better outreach, taking care of the economies of scale. We urge every Kenyan to donate, and the funds be spent prudently.