Kenya has experienced frequent droughts every 10 years since 1904 when records in the country began; but since 2001 they have occurred every three to five years. The current drought in Kenya was declared a national emergency by the government, with the arid and semi areas in the north being the most affected.
The situation is mainly as a result of ignorance and negligence by both the county and national governments.
The drought is a result of the effects of the climate crisis, which is a threat to both food and nutrition security.
Climate conditions in some areas continue to deteriorate as below-average rainfall leads to lack of pasture, which affects livestock and domestic food crops, as well as drying up of water sources.
In most cases, the areas impacted are already the poorest and most food insecure. Over 2.1 million people are exposed to malnutrition and risk of loss of life.
It is a vicious cycle that has left million vulnerable and deepened poverty levels.
While we read reports of government action immediately after media campaigns, where the government, Kenyans and businesses commit to disburse cash stipends and food to vulnerable households and individuals, the help people are receiving is not sufficient to cover immediate household needs.
It is clear that a lot has to be done, starting with adapting flexible food systems, maximising natural resources by putting them into use by converting both solar and wind into electricity that can be used to pump water from boreholes and availing water to the people.
Also, the government needs to introduce a competitive agri-food sector and embrace modernisation.
For climate adaptive food systems, the government needs to invest heavily, and it includes growing alternative crops, intercropping different crop varieties, use of drought tolerant seed varieties, employing irrigation and water harvesting techniques, crop insurance, early warning and monitoring systems, construction of dykes, changing planting dates, diversifying agriculture, reliance on safety nets and social networks. All these can be used as tools to mitigate as well as control the effects of future climatic patterns.
It is upon the government to ensure that measures around food security aimed to achieve sustainable and robust agricultural development are taken immediately. Climate adaptation policies formulated should not only consider technological progress, but should also pay attention to traditional agricultural practices of small farmers and indigenous communities.
The effects of climate crisis came at a time when Kenya was grappling with a growing debt and fiscal crisis. More needs to be implemented to protect people, their livestock and wildlife.
- By Cynthia Ochieng, Nairobi