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 EU supports Kenya in addressing the challenges that 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 an exception.
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.
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 livelihoods through early response.
This policy shift informed the 2011 move 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.
With 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 2016-17 by various stakeholders were much more timely and effective than those implemented during the drought of 2008-11. Kenya is exploring several financing mechanisms to tackle the effects of droughts and other climate-related hazards.
To this end, the NDMA Act established a National Drought Emergency Fund to ensure resources will always be available for quick action before a drought deteriorates. Regulations for operationalisation of the fund are now awaiting approval by the National Assembly.In the meantime, the NDMA has been testing and refining 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 2016-17 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.
To that end, the EU is supporting water infrastructure development in eight of the arid and semi-arid 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.
As we collectively embark on turning resolutions of last week’s ASALs Conference in Malindi into action, the European Union reiterates its commitment to continue its partnership with Kenya in building resilience to drought and climate change.
Pozzi is Acting Head of the European Union Delegation to Kenya while Oduor is CEO of the National Drought Management Authority.