Nairobi — When the country experienced El Nino rains in 1997, the downpour left in its wake a trail of destruction through floods and landslides.
The anticipated torrents in a few weeks are a welcome blessing in disguise. The country has been in the grip of a severe drought; farmlands are bare, rivers and dams are drying up and water rationing has added to the agony of millions of households.
In some parts of the country, it hasn't rained for two years. It was far from sufficient in the few regions that received some rains. The result is some 10 million Kenyans are currently dependent on relief food due to widespread crop failure. The drought has also caused water levels to shrink in major rivers.
Major urban areas like Nairobi have been under a punitive water rationing regime for the best part of this year. Hydro-electricity generation has also been adversely affected to the extent that power cuts are experienced three days a week across the country.
In a press brief posted in the Meteorological Department's website this week, its director, Dr Joseph Mukhabana, urges both farmers and the ministry of Agriculture to work closely to maximise on the rains which he believes can greatly mitigate the current grave food situation in the country.
Mr Lawrence Simitu, the director of water and irrigation, says Sh400 million has been set aside for the rehabilitation of 3,000 water pans and dams to harvest the rain water.
"We will also try to source more emergency funds to build dams. We are encouraging Kenyans to invest in storage facilities such as tanks. Where possible, they can dig small pans on their farms to take full advantage of the rains," says the director.
At electricity generator KenGen, the news of impeding El Nino rains has been received with excitement. "The El Nino rains are just what we need. All our dams are in good condition and we don't foresee any problems," said KenGen spokesman Mike Njeru.
But in the North Rift, the country's grain basket, farmers are worried that they will lose the crop that has survived the drought should the El Nino rains arrive before harvest time. They say the rains will make it difficult for machinery to move and pick the yield while some crops are likely to be either submerged or swept away by floods.