Effect of drought in ASAL Kenya and the suitable adaptation measures

The last time reasonable rains were recorded was in March-May 2020. The inadequate and irregular rains have contributed to low food production, hence the prevailing hunger situation in the region. Besides crop failure, the droughts have been so severe with rampant livestock deaths experienced in the affected areas.

It is estimated that 4.2 million Kenyans, mainly inhabiting the ASALs have been affected by the drought. This has resulted in acute food insecurity that is currently being experienced in the ASAL communities. This has led to the high cost of basic foods in the affected regions.

The prolonged drought has resulted in the drying up of the water sources, especially the rivers, on which most of the ASAL communities are dependent for their household water needs. The distance to water sources for households increased during the drought. Thus, women must walk longer distances to fetch water, exposing them to gender-based violence. The households are also exposed to health hazards, as the water from distant sources is of lower quality resulting in high incidences of water-borne diseases.

To address the effects of drought, the communities in the ASALs need to adopt climate-smart practices to mitigate and adapt to recurrent rainfall failure. Communities must embrace rainwater harvesting for growing food at the household level. Rainwater harvesting will reduce dependence on rain for growing food and watering livestock.

The kitchen gardens can be used for growing indigenous vegetables such as Spider plants, Blacknight shade and Amaranthus that require less water for growth. The households should construct storage structures to store the harvested farm produce for long-term and sustainable availability of food.

Finally, the communities should embrace Drought Tolerant Crops (DTCs) such as cassava, sweet potatoes, green grams and cowpeas for guaranteed harvest. This will reduce over-reliance on maize which produces disappointing yields as it requires high precipitation. The DTCs will compensate for the recurrent low maize yields.

The adoption of these sustainable climate-smart practices will ensure communities in the ASALs adapt to the ravages of drought that have been rampant in recent years due to the effects of climate change.

Julius Wairoma is a Food Security & Livelihoods Specialist at Compassion International Kenya

Compassion International Kenya website

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