Droughts in Kenya are becoming increasingly regular as the effects of global climate change become ever more apparent. Kenya and the European Union stand together on the world stage as close partners in combating climate change.
Under the Paris Agreement, both are committed – alongside almost all other countries in the world – to controlling their emissions of greenhouse gases.
The European Union supports Kenya in addressing the challenges it faces as a result of climate change, particularly in its arid and semi-arid lands (Asals). Severe periods of drought have become more frequent and threaten to become the norm rather than the exception.
Their impact is all too evident in the millions of people affected and the substantial amount of money lost. The economic cost of the 2008-2011 drought in Kenya, for example, was estimated at $12.1 billion.
Frequent droughts give communities less time to recover between episodes. Their impact is exacerbated by factors such as insecurity, limited livelihood diversification, inadequate social and physical infrastructure, marketing systems that are not well functioning, and low investment.
These factors increase vulnerability, which is likely to deepen with the effects of climate change.
Kenya has made significant progress in managing drought risk. We attribute much of this progress to a policy shift - from reactive response to an anticipatory approach that prioritises reduction of vulnerability and cushioning of livelihoods through early response.
This policy shift informed the 2011 decision by Government to institutionalise drought management through a dedicated and specialised institution – the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA). The authority’s legal basis was further strengthened by the NDMA Act 2016.
Among our collective progress so far is the formulation of the Ending Drought Emergencies (EDE), an over-arching policy and strategic framework for drought risk management which all the main parties have endorsed and are supporting.
Thanks to the EU's financial support, the drought early warning system has undergone significant improvements and modernisation such as adoption of mobile phone technology to improve data collection and integration of satellite data.
Consequently, the drought response interventions carried out in 2016-2017 by various stakeholders were much more timely and effective than those implemented during the drought of 2008-2011.
Kenya is exploring several financing mechanisms to tackle the effects of drought and other climate-related hazards.
To this end, the NDMA Act established a National Drought Emergency Fund to ensure that resources will always be available for quick action in the event of drought. Regulations for operationalising the fund are now awaiting approval by the National Assembly.
In the meantime, the NDMA has been testing and refining the use of drought contingency finances, with €33 million (approximately Sh3.7 billion) funding from the EU.
This enabled the NDMA to respond promptly to the first signs of drought in August 2016: for example, the specially constituted livestock feed supplements distributed in several counties in 2016-2017 significantly reduced livestock mortality.
Much still needs to be done to consolidate the gains and bring us closer to achieving the overall goal of ending drought emergencies. Of utmost importance is to fast-track support for the ‘foundational’ pillars of Vision 2030 such as security, infrastructure, education, health and nutrition.
To that end, the EU is supporting water infrastructure development in eight Asal counties. It is also supporting projects to improve nutrition in the Asals, which is another important factor - well-nourished people are better able to cope with drought.
Better roads in the Asals will also help to strengthen resilience, with the EU having funded the completion this year of a road connecting Marsabit County to the rest of Kenya and planning to upgrade key roads in Marsabit, Isiolo, Laikipia, Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties.
We pay tribute to the many stakeholders in Kenya's Asals, who've been actively engaged with us in strengthening the country's resilience to drought.
As we collectively embark on turning resolutions of the recent Asals Conference in Malindi into action, the EU reiterates its commitment to continuing its partnership with Kenya in building resilience to climate change and controlling the emissions of greenhouse gases.
Mr Pozzi is acting head of the European Union Delegation to Kenya. Mr Oduor is CEO of the National Drought Management Authority