Biting drought indicates little learnt from past occurrences

James Kendagor with his only remaining calf at his Manyatta in Narengo in Turkana yesterday after the raving drought in the region killed most domestic animals. [Phillip Orwa, Standard]
One would be forgiven to conclude that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big 4 agenda has gotten off to a false start. Pictures of emaciated men and women flashed in mainstream media must have sent a chill down the spine of anyone and no doubt, poured cold water on one of Mr Kenyatta’s legacy projects to ensure a reliable and affordable supply of food to all Kenyans.

There are those who feel that the prolonged drought should be the least of worries to the country for now. Rather, those who ought to have done something to lessen the effects of the drought and chose to do nothing.

For in truth, there is so much food in the country. What is lacking is a means that creates a link between the haves and the have-nots.

Yet the bureaucrats will not escape the indictment for the unfortunate suffering and the misery of our compatriots.

SEE ALSO :Over 14 counties face starvation as drought bites

It is unconscionable that 50 years after the first man- Neil Armstrong- landed on the moon, we in Kenya still grapple with the basics of food and water.

Kenya is a land of incredible promise and admirable will, even in the face of adversity. There is no doubt that Kenyans will ride out the drought. What is sorely lacking is the political will to manipulate and harness nature’s gifts like water and sun (until recently, wind) for man’s benefit.

That the December 2018-March 2019 season was unusually very dry ought to have prompted conversations on what to do to tackle the attendant drought and starvation.

Nobody will excuse the failure to plan. It is reassuring that the government has set aside Sh2 billion to buy food rations for those affected and thereby mitigate the calamity.

Yet that only amounts to a band-aid solution to what is truly a complex problem.

SEE ALSO :Drought, a perennial headache in Turkana

The underlying issues like over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture, poor quality seeds, poor farming methods, substandard fertilizers, lack of funds to plant the crops and a marketing strategy on how the harvested crops will get to the market continues to undermine the quest for food security.

One of the ways this can be done is by making adequate plans from the planting to harvest seasons. All these have conspired to make food insecurity a recurrent problem, year-in, year-out. 

The elephant in the room, of course, is corruption. The construction of Kimwarer and Arror dams in West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties is clouded by allegations of corruption.

The 1 million-acre Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme in Kilifi and Tana River counties has stalled with Sh7 billion sunk into it. 

So what to do?

SEE ALSO :30,000 herders flee to Uganda as drought ravages

There are low hanging fruits in the food insecurity situation. We need to fix the route-to-the-market for the crops. So many bottlenecks, including poor road infrastructure and lack of capacity to absorb the produce from the farms have to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

There is so much grain in the stores in Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Narok, Nakuru and Elgeyo Marakwet yet across in Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana and parts of Samburu and the Northern Region are faced with a drought of epic proportions.

The bureaucrats should not be seen to be reactive. They should anticipate the crisis. Despite early warning, little was left for too late when the drought could have reached emergency levels.  

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