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Kenya must act fast to solve water and food security problems

Friday April 28 2017

Proceedings during the Nation Leadership Forum at the University of Nairobi.

Proceedings during the Nation Leadership Forum at the University of Nairobi. The forum sought to find ways to alleviate drought situations and food insecurity in the country. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Kenya’s fight with climate change has become challenging and the droughts are now a cyclic trend. Although drought prediction knowledge exists, mitigations and adaptations are far in sight, and we still continue suffering the brunt of food and water challenges.

As a country, we are blessed to be located at the Equator and have relatively good climate unlike countries in the Middle East, Europe and North America, which suffer from extreme heat or cold. Israel is an example of the “survival of the fittest country” which has managed to withstand desert conditions and have water and food security.

Israel’s problems are similar to Kenya’s – population increase, 60 per cent desert land and 40 per cent arid. Kenya is 83 per cent arid and semi-arid.

I must say that Kenya is trying by setting up institutions like Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources; Agriculture, State of Northern Kenya and other lands; National Council of Science and Technology, National Drought Management Authority and having climate change units at various institutions namely the Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service.

We also have policies, legal frameworks and plans like the Constitution (2010), National Disaster Management Policy, National Policy for Sustainable Development of Northern Kenya and other arid lands, Climate Change Act, Environmental Management and Coordination Act and Climate Change Adaptation Plan.



However, this is not sufficient as action on the ground is not taking place.

To achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of zero hunger (SDG 2), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) and Climate Action (SDG 13), we must adapt holistic mechanisms of conserving water and growing food.

This can be done by harvesting rainwater, repairing water leaks at the earliest, drilling deep wells, desalinisation of water, reusing treated sewage water for farming, subsidising the price of dual flush toilets and solar panels, pricing water heavily so people don’t waste the precious commodity, drip irrigation, educating people on climate change, planting indigenous trees and allocating more budget for climate change innovations geared towards smart water conservation and food security.

Overall, Kenya needs to work towards SDG 13 rather than crying when the phenomenon occurs. Solutions are there, practising them will make Kenya more sustainable in terms of overcoming drought associated catastrophes.

Dr Parita Shah, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Nairobi Email: [email protected]