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Food and water crisis as President convenes emergency meeting

Thursday January 8 2009

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU

The country is staring at an acute water and food shortage in the coming months, Water and Irrigation Minister Charity Ngilu has said.

The minister said the long drought and the poor short-rains had contributed immensely to the water shortage. The acute water shortage in the country, more so in parts of the Rift Valley, is also blamed on the depletion on the Mau Forest.

Mrs Ngilu told the Nation that if let to continue, a severe food crisis could be in the offing. She said urgent measures were already in place to save people in affected areas.

The minister spoke at his office after meeting the Rift Valley MPs, Mrs Ngilu said Turkana, Keiyo, Narok and parts of Baringo were hardest hit by the crisis.

The meeting with the 18 MPs  is said to have dwelt on having two bodies created to manage water services in Kericho and Eldoret.

“I will inform them in a few days if this is possible or not, but the situation on the ground is very terrible,” Mrs Ngilu said.

Currently the South Rift--Kericho, Transmara and Keiyo areas are served by a Kisumu-based board, while a huge part of the North Rift is served by water boards based in Nakuru and Kakamega.

Bureti MP Franklin Bett said the leaders were worried that the their people could perish if the Government did not take urgent measures to change the situation.

His Eldama Ravine counterpart Moses Lessonet said the meeting had dwelt on having boreholes drilled in Turkana, Baringo, Keiyo, and some parts of Transmara.

It is understood that the MPs avoided the issue of Mau during the meeting, due to the huge controversy that has arisen over the water tower conservation.

Parts of Narok and Transmara districts are also faced with the water crisis, and this has been a source of conflict especially with regard to the resettlement exercise in the Mau.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto also attended the meeting, and he is supposed to address the food situation in the vast province, whose production was largely hit by the post-poll crisis early this year.

Ms Ngilu said most of the areas hit by the water shortage, were already experiencing acute food crisis. She feared the situation could worsen.

An official who declined to be named because he is not allowed to speak to the press said an estimated Sh600 million would be required to handle the water crisis in the country.

The food crisis would have to be handled by the Ministry of Agriculture, that of Livestock and the one in charge of special programmes.

The Nation learnt that the President will today chair an inter-ministerial meeting to address the food situation.