We need to think beyond rainfall in the fight against drought

It is more than 7 months since the onset of the drought in different parts of the country, with perennial drought hit appearing in the news for the same old reason; starvation and death.

Images of animals and human beings stricken by starvation have been showing on our screens and printed on the first page of national newspapers almost daily. This has been very frustrating especially viewing images of emaciated children and women, facing imminent death.

More shocking details and images from North Horr have shown how serious the situation is getting. Camels, known for staying between 5 to 6 months without water have now been unable to withstand the conditions. The scorching sun has dried up the last drop of water in their bodies, leading to death of over 300 camels in the region.

With the seriousness of the situation, it is difficult to comprehend how human beings who can only stay for between 3 to 5 days without water are coping with the conditions. To make the matter worse, the Kenya Meteorology Department (KMD) recently warned that the situation might get even worse, as there will be very little rainfall in the rainy season that is usually between the months of March and May.

Meanwhile, even as we shift focus to the perennial drought hit areas, we should not forget that the situation is almost similar in other parts of the country. People are struggling to get food and water.

The weekend scuffle in Ndeiya Kiambu County where residents scrambled for relief food is an indication that the situation has gotten worse. Various groups had organized and delivered relief food to the residents but its distribution did not go as planned.

Residents hijacked the distribution process, grabbing what they could afford, just to boost their hope of seeing another day. When the conditions got uglier, the organizers had no option other than allowing residents to have their way. This is the situation in other parts of the country.

By declaring the countrywide drought a national disaster, President Kenyatta on behalf of the nation indicated that the situation is now out of control. If the international communities do not intervene, we should expect more heart wrenching images from different parts of the country.

The menace we are in today is as a result of the prolonged absence of rainfall. We are a country that fully depends on rainfall for livestock and crop farming. This is probably where we have gone wrong. A country with over 50 years of independence should be having alternatives when it comes to drought mitigation.

We have rivers and lakes that usually flood during heavy rainfall. We watch as the floods sweep across our major towns and later start complaining about drought and hunger. We seriously need sustainable agricultural development for food security in our country to avoid scenarios like the ones we are currently witnessing.

Resources should be pumped into irrigation schemes in different parts of the country. But it is necessary for us to do our homework well before setting up the schemes to avoid allocation of funds to worthless schemes.

With legitimate irrigation schemes and alternative water sources, we will be sure of beating drought and starvation hands down. Irrigation is and will be the only way to deliver us from the jaws of starvation.

We cannot afford to be crying out to international communities for relief food. It is an act that no one with sound mind can stand to justify. It is a big shame.

David Mwaura, Communications Officer-Africaqua Limited

Kenya expects poor rainfall in March-May season

Kenya is expected to receive poor rainfall in the main March to May rainy season, the meteorological office said, a situation which could exacerbate an already acute drought.

Weather forecasts in Kenya, which largely depends on rain-fed agriculture, are key in gauging inflation trends.

The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) said in its long rains (March-May) outlook that food growing areas of Western and Nyanza would have near-normal rain.

“The expected poor temporal distribution of the seasonal rainfall is, however, likely to negatively impact most agricultural areas,” KMD said in a statement.

The weather office said that agricultural areas in the southeast of the country were expected to receive poor rains during the period, as were parts of eastern and northern Kenya.

“Food security is expected to deteriorate over most parts of the country and more so the northern areas of Kenya,” KMD said.

“The poor rainfall performance expected over the Arid and Semi-arid Lands (ASALs) will continue to impact negatively on the livestock sector.

” Kenya’s inflation rate rose to 6.99 percent year-on-year in January, up from 6.35 percent in December, partly due to drought and a rise in the cost of electricity.

Last week, the government declared a national disaster and appealed for aid to counter a drought that is posing a risk to people, livestock and wildlife.

The Kenya Red Cross has estimated about 2.7 million people need food aid after low rainfall in October and November. Kenya is the world’s leading exporter of black tea, making it a major foreign exchange earner.

KMD also said that poor rains in the October to December season had led to crop failure in most agricultural areas, lack of pasture and reduction of water levels in Seven-Forks and Turkwell hydroelectric dams.

Reuters

Africaqua among the GSBI Program Accelerator finalists, 2017

Africaqua CEO David Kuria will be attending the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) In-Residence Accelerator program at Santa Clara University in California from August 9 to 18, 2017.

Kuria will join representatives from 15 other social enterprises across the world for the 10 days activity meant to strengthen the operations of social enterprises to enhance goal achievement and impact creation.

Africaqua is a social enterprise based on a safe water value chain model involving watershops, green distribution mechanisms and Micro-Distribution Centers (MDCs). The company is targeting to establish a chain of MDCs both in rural and urban areas in order to curb the ever rising water shortage nightmare in Kenya.

The program will enable Africaqua through the CEO to network in order to help in fulfilling the dream of providing rural and urban poor with access to safe drinking water at an affordable price.

Africaqua was listed among the 16 finalists of this year’s program that had attracted over 275 applicants.

 

 

The ugly side of a drought hit nation

Every day, we wake up to traumatizing news of the high number of people facing starvation in Kenya. The news in form of heart wrenching images filling our TV screens and doing rounds on different social media platforms.

These are images that no one can afford to view twice. They are images of emaciated children, women, men and even animals. The drought has not spared anyone; with animal carcasses being seen everywhere. Our country is slowly turning into a nation of abnormal creatures; leading abnormal lives.

People experiencing the real wrath of drought are the pastoral communities, with their efforts being divided between finding pasture for their livestock and food for themselves. They are watching helplessly as the cruel hand of death continue turning their once healthy livestock into carcasses.

From Turkana to Tana River, Baringo to Baragoi, Laikipia to Lodwar, Marsabit to Mandera, Ijara to Isiolo, effects of drought and starvation are real. People and animals are losing battle to starvation every other day. Those lucky to see sun rise are not sure about watching as the sun sets; they are staring at the ugly face of death.

With people spending days and even months without something to drink or eat, this reduces their hope of seeing another day. Some of them people especially those in Turkana and Samburu are now depending on some wild fruits for food.

The fruits are poisonous and hence cannot be cooked the same way we cook food at home. They require a lot of water to neutralize the poison. With the water scarcity nightmare they are experiencing, women are forced to trek miles and miles away in the search of water points.

They camp at there, light fire and begin the process of preparing “meals” for their families. They spend days at here and return home only after having prepared “enough food” to take their families for days.

Men and boys also move out to look for water and pasture for their livestock. People are spending months without interacting with each other. Drought has interfered with their social lives.

A government agency recently announced that the number of Kenyans facing starvation has increased rapidly due to the prolonged drought being experienced in different parts of the country. The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) said that the number has now risen from 1.3 million last year to 2.7 million this year.

These figures are worrying, bearing in mind that the situation is expected to get worse as time goes. Meteorologists have already warned that rainy season will delay; news that has now sent cold shivers down the spines of Kenyans.

Some of the counties where people are facing starvation are known to be perennial drought hit areas. Every year, residents have to wait for relief food from the government and well-wishers. Sometimes, delivery of relief food delays, arriving only after residents have starved to death and their livestock unable to withstand the severe conditions of starvation.

Kenya is a country full of resources and with their proper utilization, we can manage to counter the drought before its conditions extend to adverse stages. We have both underground and surface resources enough to deal with the situation.

In 2013, government through Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Regional Development Authorities Prof. Judy Wakhungu announced that hydrologists had found large aquifers of water in Turkana and Lotikipi basins. The two aquifers were estimated to contain 250 billion cubic meters of safe water. The water could serve the whole country for over 70 years, basing it on the fact that Kenyans consume around 3 billion cubic meters of water yearly.

Although several tests have been conducted since then, not much has been done initiate abstraction and treatment of the water estimated to be lying at about 300 meters from the surface. This is definitely sad news for the Turkana residents and Kenyans at large who celebrated the discovery of the aquifers.

With the increasing demand for water in Kenya including in major cities like Nairobi, it would be necessary for government, Non-Government Organizations and other stakeholders in the water sector to pool together resources and initiate this project that could see Kenyans having more than enough water for themselves and their livestock.

Late last year, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company announced plans to ration water supply to residents. The directive is still in force and is expected to extend up to April this year. The company cited low water level in the main dams supplying the thirst quenching commodity to Nairobi residents.

If we can utilize all the water resources available, we will start having a sustainable food supply for every Kenyans, for a whole year. Rationing of water especially in towns will be a thing of the past, with communities living in arid and semi-arid areas being able to engage in agriculture to produce enough food for themselves and their livestock.

Efforts by companies like Africaqua coming up with safe water models and initiatives aimed at dealing with water shortage nightmare might not be enough to quench the thirst of ever increasing number of deserving Kenyans. More entities should come on board and support such initiatives in order to help in dealing with the monster-drought.

With this, we will then be able to stand high and claim to have defeated drought and starvation. It is time to stand together, mobilize resources and invest in water projects or we sit, relax and continue watching heart wrenching images of fellow Kenyans and their livestock being mauled by merciless jaws of drought.

 

David Mwaura,

Communications Officer, Africaqua Limited