Experts have warned that the North Rift region is headed for a major food crisis as leaders in drought-hit regions say the prolonged dry spell should be declared a national disaster.
More than 100,000 people in the North Rift are staring at starvation following the onset of the dry spell in many parts in the region.
And according to a report released by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group and Early Warning Systems Network in January, families in Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties faced food scarcity and inadequate pasture and water for their animals.
In parts of Baringo, West Pokot and Turkana counties in the North Rift, food shortage is likely to be complicated by the onset of the dry spell.
The National Drought Management Authority has called on pastoralists in arid areas of the country to put in place measures to cushion them against losses occasioned by the persistent drought.
“Livestock farmers should sell emaciated cows...to avert looming losses. The situation may worsen,” said the drought agency’s Baringo County coordinator Amos Nyakeyo.
A spot check by the Nation revealed that food prices in major markets in the region have skyrocketed with a 2kg tin of maize being sold at between Sh120 and Sh140 which is not within reach for many residents forcing some to flee to the neighbouring Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot counties to look for food.
FEARS OF CONFLICT
“Pastoralists are beginning to move to areas like Lochakula, Narion and Kulel at the border of Turkana East and East Pokot sparking fears of conflicts for water and pasture,” Tirioko MCA Stephen Maklap told the Nation.
West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo named parts of Pokot North sub-county where famine stricken families are in urgent need of emergency relief supplies and essential health and nutrition services.
But as the families in these counties face starvation, maize farmers in the North Rift are issuing ultimatums to the government to buy the produce.
Students and pupils in arid areas have also been hit hard with most deserting schools due to the biting drought.
According to the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Daniel Karaba, the situation was almost getting out of hand.
“The national government should declare the drought a national disaster without delay,” he told the Nation on Mondayin Kutus Town, Kirinyaga County.
Mr Karaba said a visit to schools in Wajir County, together with his committee last week, revealed that only a handful of learners were attending classes.
In Nyeri, Kieni MP Kanini Kega, whose constituency is a semi-arid area, asked the national government to declare the drought a national disaster due to its severity.
While launching a feeding programme in Karichane Primary School in his constituency on Monday, the MP said the number of people affected by the drought was soaring every day.
“We have seen our livestock die and people seriously affected but if the government is able to declare this a national disaster definitely there will be mitigation measures,” he argued.
The lawmaker said more than 100 schools in his constituency had been affected by the drought noting that some families had forced to relocate.
The livestock sector is the major economic mainstay especially in the region has also been adversely been affected by the persistent dry spell with major water sources drying up leading to emaciation of livestock.
The deteriorating food situation and pasture in the region is likely to fuel armed conflicts among pastoralists.
At Nginyang’ livestock market in Tiaty sub-county for instance, a cow which used to sell at Sh30,000 in November last year is now going at Sh10,000 while a goat which used to sell at Sh5,000 in the same period now going at a mere Sh2,000.
Residents have no alternative but to sell their animals at throw away prices for fear that they will perish due to lack of water and pasture.
Leaders from the affected counties have petitioned the government to provide humanitarian interventions to avert calamities as witnessed in previous dry spell periods.
Reported by Wycliff Kipsang, Florah Koech, George Munene and Grace Gitau