The Government is squarely to blame for the effects of drought

If you are just arriving in Kenya or waking up from some pit-hole of darkness, here is the news; the price of Unga has been over Kshs 150 for weeks. Fresh news indicate that¬†the price of 500ml packet of pasteurized milk has reached an all time high of Kshs 60 and Kshs 65 at other places. The World Bank has just revised Kenya’s economic growth prospects from 5.9% down to 5.5%. The common denominator in all these bad news is drought – and as stated in the headline, the government is squarely to blame for the effects of drought.

Not long ago when the drought started biting hard on Kenyans, killing animals, and ultimately causing the government to declare the drought a national disaster, a friend posted on his Facebook wondering how Kenyans with thinking faculties could blame the government for the effects of drought. “Is Uhuru Kenyatta God?” he asked. Then Uhuru caused rain in Nyeri – maybe he is a god.

Here is the news.

On average, each year Kenya receives 200mm to 600mm of rainfall across the country (~400mm). According to this web rainfall calculator, a land area of 1 square kilometer receives 1 million liters of rainfall when the rain falls at a meagre 1mm. Extrapolating that for the minimum 200mm annual rainfall means that the 1 square kilometer land area will receive 200 million liters of water, which comes to about 114 trillion liters (114 billion cubic meters) of water per year for a land area the size of Kenya. Lake victoria, the largest lake in Africa, is filled up with a meagre 2,750 cubic meters of water! Whereas almost all of the water received by Kenya in terms of annual rainfall is lost as surface run-off, the amount of rain water (fresh-water) that Kenya receives indicate that Kenya is not supposed to suffer from water scarcity, especially when compared against areas such as Dubai that hardly receive rainfall above 10mm each year. Israel that is leading in handling water crisis receives less than 100mm of annual rainfall in most places.

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Can’t the government tap the rainwater at every practical place in Kenya?

Writing for on How Israel Is Solving the Global Water Crisis, David Hazony who is the Editor of the Tower states that the water problem is a problem “that can be decisively solved without anything remotely resembling the economic restructuring and political acrobatics required to address climate change” as “Fully effective solutions to the water crisis have already been found. They only need to be implemented.” One such solution is the building of big enough water reservoirs in form of artificial lakes especially at the arid and semi-arid areas of Eastern, North Eastern and Coastal regions.

Like Israel, the first step the government of Kenya ought to take in order to mitigate the effects of drought is to think of water as a natural resource in the same level as oil, gas, minerals or even land. The next step would be to plan on where and how to get this rare resource, manage it, and distribute it to every single Kenya throughout the year.

The immediate measure the government ought to have taken as a step towards dealing with food security and water shortage is to earmark areas that are normally the first to experience severe drought whenever rainfall fails. In these areas therefore, the government could have constructed water reservoirs sufficient to serve the residents of those areas for a period of no less than a year. The next step would have been to determine how best to conserve the environment from the effects of both 1. deforestation and 2. land subdivision.

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Lastly, there is the issue of allowing the private sector take the lead in ensuring Agriculture flourishes by use of technology particularly in the arid and semi arid areas where land acquisition has not reached the urbain catastrphone. If there is one thing that comes out clearly from reading David Hazony’s article, it is that the private sector in Israel such as Netafim that implemented drip irrigation back in the 1960s and the Hazera cooperative that started exporting efficient plant seeds (e.g. wheat with shorter stalk or tomatoes with less leaves) to other countries with similar climatic conditions as Israel that has made Israel the leader in handling global water crisis. Today Israel export fruits to countries with more favorable climates such as Kenya.

But we are in a country led by fearful leaders. Leaders afraid of making the right but unpopular decisions. A leadership that is unwilling to make decisions that will in the short and mid-term hurt their business interests. The fear with which the government approach policy issue will be the nail on the coffin that buries Kenya. As a country we have leaders afraid or unable to tackle issues such as land grabbing and deforestation headon; we have leaders whose major worry is how to win an election against opposition propaganda Рa leadership afraid of formulating policies that favor both economic and environmental  development.

When the leadership we have is that whose sole concern is fear, we cannot but blame them for the effects of natural calamities including the god-given drought. Countries like Israel and UAE that are not afraid to implement unpopular policies for the sake of the future are now sending food relief items to Kenya; yet Kenya is a country that has land suitable for Agricultural and receive more than twice the amount of rainfall those arid countries receive combined. Plus the soil of Kenya can produce a thousand times more than what all arid countries can produce combined.

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What is important to note is that the causes of drought have been known for decades. More importantly is that how to resolve these causes or even how best to mitigate their effects have been available to us long before all of us were born. The fact that we excuse the governments that are unable to implement existing solutions to our problems means that we need an extremely large dose of that drug that they just invented to treat ignorance.

Let’s be vigilant and save ourselves from stupidity. Remember there was a time at the heat of Mau forest politics that some of you believed a politician who boldly stated that rain doesn’t come from trees but from God.

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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