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VAS

Co-ordinate anti-hunger efforts at county level

COMMENTARY
By MOHAMED GULEID | November 15th 2013

By MOHAMED GULEID

In many parts of the country we have witnessed a little rain and some light showers. There are indications that probably the rains might not be enough in this season.

Environmental and economic indicators show there is a high probability of drought in many parts of Kenya. The price of live animals has started to drop and the amount of rainfall so far is also dismal. In ASAL (arid and semi-arid lands) areas such as Isiolo and Samburu livestock are migrating to the neighbouring counties of Laikipia and Meru. Also, herders from Wajir and Garrissa counties have moved into some parts of Isiolo.

All this was envisaged as early as October 2012 when the Kenya Meteorological Department warned of the poor performance of the short as well as long rains that was likely to occur from December 2012 to May 2013 respectively. In addition to the Meteorological Department’s prediction, the National Drought Management Authority, through its county based Early Warning Bulletin (EWS) of October 2013, had sounded an alarm. According to the Bulletin, environmental and livestock/agriculture indicators had started to fluctuate outside expected normal seasonal ranges, in the process affecting the local economy. The poor performance of the long rains from March — May 2013 in northern Kenya has caused pasture depletion, food insecurity, conflicts, livestock diseases and livestock outward migrations. 

Most of the surface and ground water sources such as pans, rivers, springs and shallow wells have dried up hence necessitating use of water bowsers in serving the affected areas. Currently, boreholes and shallow wells are the only available sources of water in the county.

The county government of Isiolo for example, has resorted to trucking water to the worst affected areas. A process that is very expensive and also not sustainable in the long run. As usual most of the ASAL counties will be affected because of their poor preparedness for the impending harsh climatic conditions. These counties are dependent on rain as the main source of water, which is very vital for both human and agriculture including livestock.

Anne Waiguru, the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning, has given an estimate of Sh14 billion required to mitigate the expected drought. Apparently, these amounts are not factored anywhere in the budget of the national government.

Most counties have also not foreseen the necessity for preparing for such an impending calamity. In fact, there is confusion as to who should do what. Under the old Constitution, the provincial administration used the National Arid Lands Management Programme to spearhead drought mitigation within the auspices of the district steering group.

With the emergence of the counties under the new constitutional dispensation, the process has not yet been harmonised. The county governments appear not to have internalised the concept of disaster management and so the grain silos are not adequately stocked. Ironically, the ministry of Education recently advised the World Food Program to reduce its feeding programmes for ECD (early childhood development).

Unfortunately, the ministry of Education now says that the National Treasury does not have enough funds to pay for feeding children in the ECD schools. Therefore, many children might drop out of school. Health and nutrition of people in the worst affected areas will also deteriorate for lack of a balanced diet.

In many ASAL areas incidences of insecurity will rise because of reduced social and economic endowments for many livestock keepers. Many people may also resort to poaching and also charcoal burning with the intention of sustaining their livelihoods. The environmental degradation that results has severe repercussions for the ecosystem and makes the ASAL areas even more susceptible to drought in future due to environmental degradation. The destruction of trees also causes soil erosion lowering the productivity of the soil. For dry areas, even when adequate rains are received, the dangers of floods and runaway storm waters are also severe.

To mitigate this, the national and county governments should form a joint disaster management team. The old district steering groups should be merged with county government representation to create a county steering group chaired by the county governor. The role of non-state actors and other public benefit organisations need to be emphasised, since they have been part and parcel of the team that shall prepare for any adverse effects of the drought. 

The writer is Deputy Governor of Isiolo and chairman of the Deputy Governors’ Forum.

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