Drought as a major hazard has over the years had serious adverse effects on lives and livelihoods in Kenya. In 2008/2011 Kenya arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) were amongst hardest hit regions in the greater Horn of Africa with an estimated 13 million people affected.
As a result, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) and East African Community heads of state and government convened a summit in Nairobi in September 2011.
The summit culminated in strong commitment to focus more seriously on interventions that strengthened medium to long -term resilience to disasters and ensure future drought does not result in humanitarian crisis.
In Kenya, drought effects usually lead to livestock mortality, crop failures and high food prices. In December 2012, the Kenyan government implementing on the Igad resolutions approved a Country Programme Paper (CPP) strategy for Ending Drought Emergencies (EDE) focusing on six pillars namely peace and security, climate proofed infrastructure, human capital development, sustainable livelihoods, drought risk management, institutional development and knowledge management.
Thereafter, the CPP was transformed into EDE Medium Term Plan-(MTP) 2013-17. Besides the six EDE pillars, the World Bank Report 2011 identified investments in Asal communities, maize policy reforms and unifying the social protection systems as three broad policy changes necessary in addressing Kenya’s vulnerability to drought shocks.
Further, a common programming approach was adopted and launched on November 2015 to bring synergy amongst stakeholders involved in drought management.
The intent of this framework was to align and harmonise co-ordination of programmes and investments in line with Kenya External Resource Policy objectives of October-2013.
Decades of humanitarian assistance haven’t solved the root causes of recurring drought. In actual fact, drought effects are as a result of community vulnerability, inadequate response and defective remedial actions.
The Igad Drought Disaster and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI) 2011 encourages implementation of preventive methods national in nature with regional thinking, link humanitarian interventions to development investment and use multi-sectoral all-inclusive approach.
Apparently, innovative sustainable development strategies, policies and programmes introduced focused on resilience building to climatic and economic shocks for vulnerable communities in drought prone counties.
However, devolved units possess new governance challenges as well as opportunities. They have a critical role under EDE, which is a shared function that cuts across all sectors.
Opportunities under EDE in counties include improving rural access roads, water and sanitation, small scale irrigation, livestock marketing, livelihood diversification and employment creation.
Counties should prioritise investments that enhances their risk management strategies through legislations, policy and institutions development thus making county governments more responsive to drought impacts.
The role of Private Sector actors is equally important in drought risk management. For example, financial institutions, and ICT sectors facilitated a shift from food-based to cash-based response to drought stress.
Livestock and agriculture sectors creates market-based solutions to drought risk through preparedness and response investments.
Finally, encouraging cross-border co-operation, intra-county planning and conflict resolution for conflict prone zones is crucial.
Investing in capacity building to vulnerable Asal communities strengthens on their resilience to recurring drought effects. That’s a more effective proactive approach.
Kiragu Kariuki, county drought co-ordinator, National Drought Management Authority, Nyeri County.