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FAO, government sign action plan to mitigate drought in arid areas

By James Wanzala | July 21st 2021
Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Devolution and the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) Eugene Wamalwa and Carla Mucavi, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative to Kenya. [James Wanzala, Standard]

Eight counties classified as Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) are set to benefit from a drought mitigation plan.

This was revealed after the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Ministry of Devolution signed the Anticipatory Action and Response Plan for Pastoral and Agropastoral Communities.

The counties set to benefit are Samburu, Isiolo, Turkana, Garissa, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir and Tana River.

This is in response to a drought alert sent in June 2021 where 12 of the 23 Asal counties were in the alert drought phase. At the same time, 16 reported a declining trend. This is an abnormal occurrence at the immediate end of the season.

“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 for livestock and domestic use. This is expected to get worse in the coming months hence the need for urgent anticipatory action,” said Carla Mucavi, FAO Representative to Kenya during the signing.

Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said the government welcomed the support and collaboration of partners such as FAO in addressing this 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 a coordinated response is needed from donors and other concerned stakeholders before the situation deteriorates,” said Wamalwa.

The 2020 Short Rains Assessment established that the season had performed poorly. As of February 2021, 1.4 million people in Asal counties were already experiencing acute food insecurity. This was aggravated by other factors including the Covid-19 pandemic, the desert locust invasion, food commodity 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 space and time was poor. Consequently, an estimated 2 million people in Asal counties are now in need of assistance. This figure is likely to rise as the situation worsens. Experts are warning that 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.

According to FAO, the proportion of children at risk of malnutrition is already above average in seven Asal counties (Embu, Taita Taveta, Makueni, Narok, Kjiado, Meru, Nyeri).

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

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 $15,007,460 (Sh1.5 billion) to cushion livestock assets and vulnerable pastoral households against the adverse effects of the drought, to support water 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 institutional and technical capacity of National Drought Management Authority for effective implementation of the early warning mechanism.

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