State seeks Sh8.7b for 23 Asal counties facing hunger

A herdsman looks after camels in Sololo, Moyale sub-county in Marsabit. The lack of water and pasture due to harsh climatic conditions in the area forces pastoralists to walk for long-distance as they look for pasture for their animals. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Some Sh8.7 billion is needed to mitigate the effects of drought in 23 Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (Asals) counties.

Out of this amount, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is seeking Sh2.1 billion as a contribution towards these mitigation interventions. The support will cover the counties from August to December 2021.

As part of this massive funds drive, the National government has set up the National Drought Emergency Fund availing Sh2 billion for response and long-term resilience.

The European Union has pledged Sh5 billion to support the government mitigate the current drought situation.

As part of this initiative, the Ministry of Devolution and the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (Asals) and FAO and this week held a resource mobilisation meeting in Nairobi.

FAO Country Representative to Kenya, Carla Mucavi, appealed to development partners to support the organisation’s funding gap of Sh2.1 billion to address the current drought situation.

Early warnings

Cabinet Secretary Devolution Eugene Wamalwa said the Government through the Ministry of Devolution and National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with FAO have strengthened early warnings and drought preparedness of affected communities.

“While the Government has set up a multi-agency team to coordinate response to the drought situation, it requires Sh8.7 billion to mitigate the drought situation,” Wamalwa told development partners.

To mitigate this FAO signed an Anticipatory Action and response plan for pastoral and agropastoral communities in Kenya in July this year. 

To achieve the big goal, the Government and FAO are committed to mobilising resources towards the implementation of the anticipatory interventions and long-term resilient building plan.

The first group consists of ten counties that require urgent action and a high cost of intervention; these include Garissa, Isiolo, Kilifi, Kitui, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, and Wajir.

The second group are counties that are facing a moderate risk of severe drought but still require moderate to the high cost of intervention; they include Baringo, Kajiado, Kwale, Laikipia, Lamu, Makueni, Meru, Taita Taveta, Tharaka Nithi, and West. The third group include counties of Embu, Narok, and Nyeri which are facing a low risk of severe drought.

A man looks after a herd of cattle in Chalbi desert, north Kenya, June 4, 2014. In arid and semi-arid regions of northern Kenya which is largely occupied by pastoralists, water and pasture are scarce. [Courtesy: Xinhua]

What will the funds do?

According to FAO the interventions and resources will cover the following areas: Livestock: provision of feed and supplements, livestock off-take and animal health services.

On crops, it will cover the provision of drought-resistant seeds; milling of staple commodities. The funds will also cover water needs, which includes water trucking; rehabilitation and maintenance of water facilities; fuel subsidies for motorized boreholes; water storage tanks.

It will also go into hygiene and sanitation promotion; ready-to-use therapeutic and supplementary feeds; blanket supplementary feeding programmes. Hygiene and sanitation promotion in learning institutions; food to subsidize school fees in boarding secondary schools is also a priority area. Other areas of focus are peace and security that will touch on intra/inter-community dialogue and resource use agreements in conflict hotspots; coordination of peace and security activities.

To achieve these targets, development partners have committed to support the Multi-Agency Team that has been set up by the National Government to address the drought situation.

Partnerships between National and County Governments and development partners will be strengthened to create synergy for improved coordination of drought mitigation.

Additionally, the National Government will fast track the enactment of the Disaster Risk Management Bill to have a better policy and legal anchorage for disaster management.

Why drought situation is dire

Kenya has a faced a myriad of challenges in the recent past including two desert locust invasions, Covid-19 pandemic and poor rains that have resulted in food scarcity.

FAO says this combination of negative phenomena has greatly affected the Asals counties which were already dealing with multiple threats to their food security.

These counties are facing a precarious food insecurity situation which can easily escalate if immediate action is not taken. It is estimated that two million people are already in either the crisis or emergency drought phases.

The Asal communities have been worst hit by the current drought situation because livestock is their bank from which they withdraw cash when they sell them. The Livestock markets are the super market for Asal households’ needs.

Precarious situation

The year 2020 was marked by below-average rains; by February 2020, 1.4 million people in the Asal counties were already experiencing acute food insecurity.

The long rains in March-May 2021 were also inadequate coupled with a late onset of the entire season. As of June 2021, 12 of the 23 Asal counties were facing severe drought.  The impact was water shortage, severe deficit of vegetation, and malnutrition in children, inadequate pasture resulting in poor livestock body conditions and low milk production further worsening the nutrition status.

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