Hope at last for drylands

Sunday June 11 2017

Women from Nantundu Village in Isiolo North no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water, thanks to an initiative that taps rain water and conserves it in pans. PHOTO | PAUL LETIWA


In the hillside Longopito Village, about 80 kilometres from Isiolo Town, Lucy Ntepenika has to walk eight kilometres  to the nearest water point.

The residents of Longopito are among the millions of Kenyans living in arid and semi-arid lands (Asals), who bear the brunt of climate change. The recurrent droughts, floods, inequitable distribution of land and over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture all increase their vulnerability, leading to widespread poverty.

Mr Ibrahim Jarso, who works with the Adaptation Consortium (ADA), an initiative that seeks to strengthen adaptation and resilience to climate change, says disadvantaged people have little security against extreme climatic actions.

“Most people in Asals have few resource reserves, poor housing and depend on natural resources for survival. Regular floods and long periods of drought have damaged their property and killed people, reduced business opportunities and increased the cost of transacting business,” he says.

Climate change and variability are considered major threats to sustainable progress. Experts say that the areas likely to feel the greatest impacts are the economy, water resources, ecosystems, food security, coastal zones, health, population and settlements.

It is projected that average temperatures in Kenya will increase by between 1° and 3° Celsius by 2050, yet an increase in temperature by more than 1° Celsius might aggravate the attendant aridity, especially in low-lying areas. If that happens,  conflicts over resources are likely to escalate.



Data from the Kenya Metrological Department (KMD) indicate that pastoral livelihoods are at risk from rising surface temperatures, more intense rainfall and more frequent droughts.

“There has been a slight decline in rainfall in Lodwar in Turkana County, where the mean rainfall decreased by 13 mm between the first 23 years recorded (1950-1973) and the last 41 years (1974-2015). The frequency and severity of droughts have increased in recent decades, with episodes of moderate to severe drought occurring more frequently since the 1980s,” the KMD report says. 

However, Mr Jarso says there is hope for pastoralists living in Asals since the passing of the Kenya Climate Change Act of 2016 creates an enabling environment for them to access climate financing.

“In Kenya, Wajir and Makueni counties were the first to enact the County Climate Change Fund (CCCF) legislation, with Isiolo, Garissa, and Kitui at advanced stages of approving theirs, which are anchored to the Kenya Climate Change Act,” adds Mr Jarso.

The CCCF Act  allows counties to access climate change finance from their own budgets, as well as from national and international sources.

Miriam Naramat, a 25-year-old mother of three, is one of the beneficiaries of the CCCF fund, which has brought water close to her Nantundu Village in Isiolo North.  She no longer has to walk long distances in search of water since the Count Climate Change Fund seed money from the UK government’s Department for International Development (DfID) has enabled the fencing and piping of water to kiosks and troughs from the water pan.

Pastoralists living in the nearby villages of Lengiteng, Ntumodet, Looseketet, Langaaman and Lmesheni have also benefited. This, is one way of helping herders in the north tackle climate change.

CCCF legislation commits counties to devote a certain percentage of their development budget to building community resilience, empowering residents through their elected ward adaptation planning committees (WAPCs) to set priorities on how 70 per cent of the funds set aside for adaptation will be used.


The approach, piloted in Isiolo and being replicated in Makueni, Garissa, Kitui and Wajir, uses funds from (DfID).

 In Isiolo, the fund has helped the communities invest in infrastructure such as sand dams to trap rainwater, providing clean and reliable water during dry periods.

The fund has also helped strengthen customary resource management institutions, such as “dedhas” among the Borana, to manage the resources currently the source of conflict between the Borana and neighbouring pastoralist counties.

 “The County Climate Change Fund in Isiolo also strengthened the traditional systems that govern the natural resources in rangelands. The strengthened traditional grazing governance institution (dhedha elders) subdivided land into grazing zones (namely wet dry season areas, as well as a  and drought reserve area)”, says Lordman Lekalkuli, the Isiolo County drought coordinator.

He says the management of the designated grazing zones makes Isiolo better off than its neighbours, enabling it to accommodate pastoralists from other counties in when it is extremely dry. 

“For instance, in Merti, the Yamicha water pan was put off limits, thanks to a resolution by dedha elders to prevent access to pasture in the reserve before the stipulated time.”

Statistics from the African Union’s policy framework show that in Kenya, pastoralism accounts for between 13 and 44 per cent of the gross domestic product.