Over 55,000 in Kieni face starvation as drought ravages central Kenya

Food donation

The New Democrats Party (TND) national chairman Thuo Mathenge distributes relief food to residents of Kang’a village in Nyeri county on October 2, 2022. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi I Nation Media Group

The New Democrats (TND) party national chairman Thuo Mathenge has asked President William Ruto’s government to help over 55,000 residents of Kieni constituency, Nyeri County, facing starvation.

Mr Mathenge called for the setting up of dams in the drought-hit area to enhance irrigation farming and boost food production.

Speaking when he donated foodstuffs to over 1,000 residents of Kanga village on Monday, the politician argued that such dams would provide a permanent solution to curbing starvation in Kieni.

“I thank God because I have been able to donate packets of maize flour and bread to over 1,000 families which are starving.  However, this is not a permanent solution to the biting drought situation in this area,” Mr Mathenge said.

“We appeal to President Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua to speedily construct boreholes in this constituency to end perennial cases of drought. Residents need sufficient water for farming.”

Resident Regina Wanjiru said locals had not received any food donations from the national government.

She said they had resorted to preparing herbs from forests to feed their hunger-stricken children.

“As a parent, I cannot sit pretty while my four children are suffering from hunger. I am forced to prepare anything that I encounter from the bush so as to sustain my family. We are really suffering,” Ms Wanjiru said.

“We need boreholes so as to irrigate our farms and create jobs for our youths. We need water first instead of that subsidised fertilizer. After all, we do not have money to purchase that fertiliser,” she added. 

Her sentiments were echoed by 72-year-old Samuel Maina.

Mr Mathenge, who emerged second in the Nyeri governor’s contest after UDA’s Mutahi Kahiga, appealed to the national and county governments and well-wishers to help families suffering from hunger.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) says more than 55,000 people in Kieni are in dire need of food as drought persists.

For the last five seasons, farmers in the constituency, the bread basket of Nyeri County, have not harvested much due to a lack of rains and irrigation water.

The most affected are residents of Thegu, Mugunda and the lower parts of Mwiyogo wards, where animals have started to die due to lack of pasture, a report commissioned by NDMA county coordinator Lordman Lekalkuli shows.

A survey of some of the affected villages revealed that there are several carcasses of dead animals, while streams had long dried up, with residents now pinning their hopes on the expected short rains.

Kieni residents mostly practise horticulture and dairy farming. They have now turned to selling their animals to sustain their livelihoods.

The NDMA report shows that due to resource shortages about 2,500 animals have migrated from parts of Laikipia, Isiolo and Samburu to Kieni and Mt Kenya forest which could lead to resource conflicts.

“As the meteorological department had predicted Kieni will remain dry through this month, forage and water resources are likely to deteriorate further resulting in a decline in livestock productivity … as a result livestock prices will remain below normal,” the report says.

It also said that due to poor production of food across the country, there is low stock of cereals held by traders and higher than normal prevailing prices, meaning thousands of people have no access to food.

“The scenario is expected to worsen in the coming months and we will witness a prevalence of children at risk of malnutrition to increase as adverse drought effects,” the report stated.