About a month ago Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said: “We have put in place plans for about 31 dams that are going to be constructed before the rains and also small water pans for households. So far, we have done about 8,000 of them and we want to reach 10,000 before the onset of the rains.”
The CS was speaking during a briefing on the drought situation at the deputy president’s office in Nairobi.
The much awaited long rains are finally here.
But the promised 31 dams are no where to be seen.
And so in the abundance of rain water flooding roads, Kenyans will soon, as has been the cycle, be thirsting for a drop to drink or irrigate their farms.
Just two days after it started raining, videos and photos of raging torrent of muddy water coursing down roads have been going viral on social media.
These scenes are readily associated with drought, but they also eloquently sum up the challenges facing Kenya as a country, where an intense rainy season lasts just a short period, giving way to many months of dryness.
For many Kenyans, the rain water is providing much needed relief after months of drought. There is ample supplies to meet the needs of local households and the livestock for the pastoralists, at least for a while.
The challenge is to make the most out of the abundant supply of water during this short rainy season, according to the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), by properly harvesting and storing it.
Kenyans have for years been lobbying for the implementation of policies that encourage people to harvest rainwater, a neglected yet cheap and simpler water supply technique.
And in the midst of all the rain, it is all let to go to waste even when the government knows that spells of drought do happen.
Experts say water utilities are already facing challenges of securing enough water because sources like lakes, rivers and underground reservoirs are drying up.
So Mr Kiunjuri’s words are back and haunting him as there is no clear plan by his ministry to harvest the rain water.
Recently, the CS Kiunjuri inspected the progress of Chebarsiat dam in Baringo, Museveni and Gwa Kung'u dams in Nyandarua, Kiboya Irrigation Project in Nyeri, and Segera and Mworoga dams in Laikipia.
He also inspected the rehabilitation of Ndigiri, Githima and Nyaru earth dams in Nakuru County, which he said are at 90-98 percent complete.
Other projects visited, according to the CS, were Kwa Matu water pan in Machakos County, Kerwa earth dam in Embu, Kathanje earth dam in Tharaka Nithi, Nguthiru Laingo earth dam in Meru, Lepiile water pan in Samburu, Barariru water pan in Laikipia, and Languruman in Isiolo.
“The progress is good and nearing completion. We are determined to keep delivering agriculture by making impactful investments such as dams and water pans in order to harvest water for irrigation,” he said.
Nevertheless, though commendable, the ministry’s effort has only scratched the surface.
When the Jubilee government was inaugurated in 2013, it embarked on a journey of ensuring more water supply for domestic use, as well as irrigation, by expanding dam networks across the country.
But this has become a pipe dream with talk of shadowy payments being made for work on Arror and Kamwarer dam projects in Elgeyo-Marakwet County even before the earthmovers were on site.
The National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority (WSA), previously known as National Water Conservation & Pipeline Corporation (NWCPC), is mandated to develop a water harvesting policy and enforce water harvesting strategies. It also advises the Cabinet Secretary on any matter concerning national public water works for water storage and flood control.
The authority on its website lists some of the country’s major dam projects --Chemusus in Baringo, Soin-Koru in both Kisumu and Kericho, Maruba in Machakos, Muruny in Trans Nzoia, and Bosto in Bomet.