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FAO, government sign deal to mitigate drought in Asal counties

Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa with FAO Kenya representative Carla Mucavi after signing the Anticipatory Action and Response Plan for Pastoral and Agropastoral Communities in Asal counties. [James Wanzala, Standard]

Eight Asal counties are set to benefit from a drought mitigation plan.

They are Samburu, Isiolo, Turkana, Garissa, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir and Tana River.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Devolution ministry on Thursday signed the Anticipatory Action and Response Plan for Pastoral and Agropastoral Communities.

The project is in response to a drought alert sent in June 2021 where 12 of the 23 Asal counties were placed in the alert drought phase. Sixteen reported a declining trend, an abnormal occurrence at the immediate end of the season.

FAO representative to Kenya Carla Mucavi said, “Livelihood conditions have declined as a result of reduced access to pasture even as 56 per cent of the Asal counties reported increased trekking distances to water sources. This is expected to get worse in the coming months."

Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa said the government welcomed the support and collaboration of partners such as FAO to address the situation.

“This call for anticipatory action will go a long way in building the resilience of the communities in the affected counties. Urgent action and coordinated response are needed from donors and other stakeholders," he said.

The 2020 Short Rains Assessment established that the season had performed poorly. As of February 2021, some 1.4 million people in Asal counties were already experiencing acute food insecurity.

The situation was aggravated by other factors including the Covid-19 pandemic, the desert locust invasion, food price spikes, and livestock diseases.

Since then, the long rains in March-May 2021 have also underperformed. The onset of the season was late, the amount of rainfall was below normal in most Asal counties, and its distribution in both space and time was poor.

An estimated two million people in Asal counties are now in need of help -- the figure is likely to rise as the situation worsens.

There is a severe deficit of vegetation in Isiolo county and in Lagdera sub-county of Garissa, while the rest of Garissa and Kilifi, Marsabit, Tana River, and Wajir counties report a moderate vegetation deficit.

The proportion of children at risk of malnutrition is already above average in seven Asal counties of Embu, Taita Taveta, Makueni, Narok, Kajiado, Meru and Nyeri.

In addition to that, families are now forced to cover longer distances to access water for domestic and livestock use.

Kenya’s drought response plan requires Sh9.4 billion for the period July to November 2021; Sh5.8 billion for food and safety net support and Sh3.6 billion for non-food interventions.

FAO is seeking Sh1.5 billion to cushion livestock assets and vulnerable pastoral households against the adverse effects of the drought, to support interventions for increased access to water for livestock and domestic use to enhance access to food and nutrition.

This includes basic needs by farming households and strengthening the capacity of the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) for effective implementation following the early warning.

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