The government will spend Sh3.8 billion in its response to address drought between now and April.
A huge portion of this amount, Sh2.5 billion, will be spent on food and cash transfer programmes in the drought hit parts, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said.
More than three million Kenyans are facing hunger across the country and the Kenya Red Cross Society has already appealed for Sh1 billion in aid of the affected families.
This means that relief efforts by the government must be sustained to prevent what is already a disaster from getting worse.
“The government has been responding on a continuous basis since July 2016 when drought signs were reported. This assistance has been and will continue being provided in phases,” Mr Wamalwa said at briefing yesterday.
In a further breakdown of how the Sh3.8 billion will be used, CS Wamalwa said Sh306 million will be spent on water trucking and the repair and construction of boreholes.
Sh619 million would go to livestock offtake programmes and Sh114 million for hygiene and sanitation.
Planting materials and inputs worth Sh85 million will be distributed to farmers while the health sector will be allocated Sh100 million for nutrition, including supplements.
“At no time since the start of this crisis was there a break in the government’s efforts towards addressing the drought situation and there have no drought related deaths,” the minister said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the current drought a national disaster last February.
The country is also banking on the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project to increase its food production after scaling up its operations to private investors for production purposes.
The government is preparing to hand over 20,000 acres of the expansive food security project to private firms and the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) to plant and mill more maize.
To date, only 5,000 acres out of the targeted one million have been put under crop while work is being fast tracked on the completion of the remaining 4,400 acres after installation of five pumps.
The completion date of the remaining part of the irrigation infrastructure was revised to this March from last September and construction of an additional 10,000 acres will start in August.
Kajiado, Isiolo, Tana-River and Garissa, which are most affected by the food crisis, will receive immediate assistance according to the CS.
Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary Andrew Tuimur said there’s sufficient maize in the strategic grain reserve.
Speaking at English Point Marina during an induction of the Senate parliamentary committee, the official said there is more than three million bags of maize in the reserve.
“It is the best we have had over the years. We are happy with what the farmers have done. They have sold grain to the reserve. This is because the government gave a good price of Sh3,200 and we are still getting more,” Mr Tuimur said.
But senators and governors want the national government to allocate more funds to agriculture sector saying it is constrained.
Senate agricultural committee chairman Njeru Ndwiga said the ministry, which has a huge mandate, is not properly funded.
Mr Ndwiga, who is also the Embu senator, said the ministry’s funding is about 8.7 per cent instead of at least 10 per cent, according to Maputo Declaration as agreed by African states.
The Council of Governors agriculture committee chairman Okoth Obado also urged the government to increase funding to the ministry.
“Counties are spending 3.7 per cent of the budget which is so low. We have been unfortunate for five consecutive seasons,” Mr Obado said.
In Tana River County, 60,000 people are in dire need of food aid, according to area National Drought Management Authority information officer Ismael Duale.
There’s mass movement of people and livestock to the Tana Delta where there is little vegetation cover.
Kilifi County is facing an eminent hunger due to crop failure for the last three years, said county commissioner Magu Mutindika. And in Kwale, NDMA coordinator, Mr Ramon Sherah, said the preliminary results of the drought report indicate Lunga Lunga and Kinango sub-counties are the most affected areas by the dry spell.
Reporting by Winnie Atieno, Kazungu Samuel, Stephen Oduor, Kalume Kazungu, Fadhili Fredrick and Lucy Mkanyika