16 February 2018

Kenya: Access to Water, Pasture to Decline in ASAL Counties

Nairobi — Accessibility to water and pasture is expected to diminish in Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) counties as a result of projected dry conditions.

National Drought Management Authority's (NDMA) vegetation index as at January 29 classified the drought phase in Isiolo, Garissa, Kajiado, and Tana River counties as alarming with six counties listed under the alert category.

The six are Kilifi, Mandera, Wajir, Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, and Taita Taveta.

"Average distances to water for both households and livestock are likely to increase since it is anticipated that most of the open water sources will dry up in the next four to six weeks," the report indicates.

"This is likely to lead to some considerable deterioration in livestock body condition and milk production," it further warned.

According to the index published last month, of 23 ASAL counties, there were only 13 listed in the normal phase marking a slight improvement from November which only had 12 counties classified as normal.

"There are currently 13 counties where drought conditions are categorized as normal, six in alert and four in alarm, compared with 12 in normal, seven in alert and four in the alarm drought phase in November," the publication showed.

The ASAL counties account for the lion's share of the 3.9 million people projected to face food insecurity this year, covering eighty-nine percent of the country's landmass and thirty-six per cent of the nation's population.

They are also home to 90 per cent of wildlife and 70 per cent of Kenya's livestock population.

The food security situation is likely to be worsened by a poor harvest in marginal agricultural counties in which residents rely on small-scale crop farming for sustenance.

"Poor crop harvest will be expected in most of the marginal agricultural counties due to a combination of poor rainfall performance and the fall armyworm infestation," read the NDMA report.

The report, however, foresaw "fair crop performance" in areas such as Kwale, Mbeere, Kilifi, Makueni, and Narok.

In Tharaka and Meru North fair crop performance is expected to lead to harvest which will "replenish household stocks, lessen market dependence, and improve incomes."

Among reasons cited for the dismal performance in crop generation is the poor distribution of rain in December exposing most ASAL areas to sunny and dry conditions.

"In terms of cumulative amounts, the rains were largely depressed which has led to below average pasture regeneration and poor crop performance across the ASAL region," noted the report in reference to the rains in December.

Apart from poor crop performance, human-wildlife conflicts have also contributed to food insecurity, especially in Baringo, Laikipia, and Taita Taveta counties.

There was, however, a significant improvement in the average distances travelled to access water for both households and livestock, according to the NDMA index.

"The average distances to water for both households and livestock generally reduced compared to the previous month as a result of pasture regeneration and recharge of open water sources in nearly all the ASAL counties."

Water scarcity was however reported in some areas within Isiolo, Wajir, Kajiado, Marsabit, Garissa, Kitui, Narok, Mandera, Samburu and Meru counties which received depressed rainfall in December.

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