Governors call for long term solutions to water shortage in Asal areas

East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development CS Rebecca Miano (2nd right) with governors from ASAL counties, from left Simon Kachapin (West Pokot), Nathif Jama (Garissa), Issa Timamy (Lamu) and Adan Khalif (Mandera) during the Frontier Counties Development Council roundtable meeting on water security in ASAL regions at Kempinski Hotel, Nairobi on September 27, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Governors from frontier counties want practical solutions to the perennial water shortage in the region.

During a round table meeting with partners at a Nairobi hotel on Wednesday, the county bosses said more action was needed to effectively harvest water during the looming El Nino rains.

Garissa Governor Nathif Jama, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues from Mandera, Wajir, West Pokot and Lamu, which are among the counties that form the Frontier Counties Development (FCDC), lamented that there was slow progress in achieving water security.

"Now that we are expecting heavy rains, we need to talk about how we can harvest water for our counties in order to address the drought that has affected our counties frequently," Jama said, noting that the region has just emerged from the worst drought in four decades.

El Nino rains are projected in the country from October to January 2024. El Nino was previously experienced in 2006 and 1997.

Kenya has a poor record of harvesting rainwater, leading to an endless cycle of drought.

Speakers at the forum highlighted the economic potential a water-secure Northern region would offer, citing the huge agricultural production realised in arid and semi-arid land (Asal) under irrigation.

Development partners called for the construction of water pans and the sinking of boreholes in Asal areas.

"Everything is there if you just add water. The land in Asals is productive if water is provided... It is time to be practical. How much does it cost to build a water pan? It is very affordable... costing Sh1 million at most," said United Nations Resident Coordinator Stephen Jackson, who rooted for public-private partnerships in Kenya's quest to transition from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation. 

Dr Jackson said greater effort should be placed on water resource management and water governance.

East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano assured that the government would invest more in water resource management.

Miano said the ministry would ensure the right policy measures are in place to ensure water security.

"Let us acknowledge the number of those who will thrive courtesy of easier access to clean drinking water... we need to draw the line on the sand and have a clear implementation... on the investment of water sources," she said.