18 March 2019

Kenya: Nanok Says Harsh Weather to Blame for Turkana Hunger

As the famine facing about 12 counties in Kenya continues to draw anger from the public following little action from authorities, a governor in one of the most affected counties has defended his administration's interventions and instead attributed his constituents' tribulations to harsh weather.

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok said they have been using weather forecast reports to decide on measures that can assist in curbing the famine but the situation worsened due to erratic rainfall since last year.

"The situation here keeps changing. We are preparing for the rains. We have a team that is making sure that land is being prepared and seed distributed," he said.

HEADLINES

Every year, Turkana hits the headlines with reports of hunger-related deaths followed by appeals for food aid.

But when the rains come, what follows is displacement of locals due to floods.

This has become a common cycle in the county that is listed among the arid and semi-arid places by the national government.

Speaking during an interview on KTN News on Sunday night, Mr Nanok, who is serving his second term as governor, said that his government has been overwhelmed and is seeking assistance from the national government.

BOREHOLES

Among interventions he said they have put in place as a county include digging and repairing boreholes and also water trucking in some areas.

"Since last month we began food distribution across the county. It is not that sufficient and we have asked the Ministry of Devolution to assist so as to increase rations. We are looking into our budgets in areas we can cut so that we make more interventions if rains fail to come by May," he said.

Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa termed the current situation in Turkana as a plague of some sort since besides the prolonged drought, there has been a locust invasion which cleared all vegetation thus affecting livestock as well.

Livestock in the region has also suffered from a tick infestation.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Although the CS noted that Mr Nanok tried his best to deal with the problems, he was categorical that it will be foolhardy for stakeholders to keep relying on rain-fed agriculture at this time and age.

"Reality is that climate change is with us. We can no longer wait for rains. We must see how to deal with this situation by building resilience. Rivers are dry now but there is a lot of water coming soon. It will all go into the lakes and oceans which might not need the water," said Mr Wamalwa.

"We would like to see an end of this relief food business. We want to focus more on resilience. We want counties to put in more effort on building resilience such as water harvesting and irrigation," he added.

LITTLE RAINFAL

The latest weather forecast from the Meteorological Department of Kenya shows that areas like Turkana will receive poor rainfall in the coming March-April-May long rains season after experiencing a similar situation during last year's October-November-December short rains season.

Other dry counties include Marsabit, Samburu, Mandera, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa and Tana River.

Mr Wamalwa made a passionate appeal to counties to set aside adequate funds for long term interventions especially in regions where drought is common.

"ASAL (arid and semi-arid lands) counties need to do much more because they are the hardest hit both during drought and floods. The national government only comes in when a county is overwhelmed. I urge them to set aside more funds," he said.

Turkana is among counties that have been receiving the lion's share of funds from the National Treasury since the implementation of devolution in 2013.

In the Division of Revenue Bill, 2019 which sets out anticipated budgets for the year 2019/2020, Turkana is among the only six counties out of 47 that will receive over Sh10 billion from the exchequer.

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