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Ukambani residents face starvation as climate expert warns of erratic weather

By Erastus Mulwa | February 6th 2017
Climate experts have warned that semi-arid regions will continue to experience severe drought in the coming decades. (Photo: Jonah Onyango/Standard)

People living in Yatta, Masinga and Mwala in Machakos are staring at starvation as the dry spell persists.

This comes at a time climate experts have warned that semi-arid regions will continue to experience severe drought in the coming decades. Kitui and Makueni have been named among Kenya's worst-hit counties.

This is expected to lead to increased poverty and rural-urban migration.

Massive sand harvesting in rivers that serve the three counties has aggravated the situation.

For instance, Thwake and Athi rivers have been ravaged by massive sand scooping and pollution by upstream counties of Kajiado, Nairobi and Kiambu.

In Makueni, where commercial sand harvesting has been banned, bloody clashes between locals opposed to sand scooping and sand traders have been reported in the recent past.

Several vehicles belonging to both the county government and sand traders have also been burnt down during such confrontations.

Last year, Yatta MP Francis Mwangangi led the Parliamentary Committee on Water and Environment to assess the extent of pollution in River Athi, a key source of livelihood for thousands of locals who practice small-scale farming.

But as the House Committee discovered, the river waters have been so badly polluted to the extent that farmers who have been operating under several irrigation schemes cannot export their produce as consumer agencies declared their produce unfit for foreign markets.

Last week, Mwangangi called for immediate action by both the national government and international agencies to avert further encroachment and put a stop to its pollution.

According to Lemi Muia, a climate expert and member of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there is a serious need to formulate and implement appropriate interventions to enable communities in arid and semi-arid areas to adapt to the effects of climate change.

"By adoption I mean more efficient use and preservation of ground water resources and sources, continuous development of drought-tolerant crops and tree species coupled with forestry practices that are less vulnerable to droughts," he said.

Mr Muia warned that unregulated sand scooping in rivers could lead to catastrophic results considering the erratic climatic patterns currently being experienced in the Lower Eastern region.

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