DEVOLUTION: Northern Kenya
M. S Abdikarim
“…We must redefine our own narrative and change the perception that the region is only associated with drought, famine, insecurity, inter-communal clashes, cattle rustling and other non-developmental terminologies. We should set our priorities right”
In September 2000, 189 member states of the United Nations came together at the Millennium Summit and adopted the Millennium Declaration. Eight Millennium Developments Goals (MDG’s) were unveiled with goal number one being poverty eradication. It is exactly one year and nine months to the end of the MDG’s and we need to take stock of our progress as far as goal number one is concerned. As a country we tried our best, but we performed poorly as far as food security and nutrition is concerned in Northern Kenya context.
Two third of Kenya’s land mass are arid and semi-arid areas, which are characterized by low, unreliable and poorly distributed rainfall. In July 2011 Kenya Red Cross and other corporate leaders initiated “Kenyans for Kenya” initiative coined as “K4K” in order to raise funds and respond to famine and deaths from starvation in Turkana County.
Many of these challenges facing our agricultural sector arise from a few root causes which we ignored either partially or in totality. One of the major factors leading to failure in the agricultural sector is poor political and economic governance in Northern Kenya e.g. ineffective institutions, inadequate funding for the agricultural sector, absence of an active private sector role, insecurity and poor infrastructure and water resources management. In addition, lack of research and development institutions at the county level has further incapacitated growth of the agricultural sector.
The strategies for addressing these challenges must focus on effective coordination and capacity development of local institutions and human capital, as well as the political and economic goodwill of each county to prioritize its agricultural agenda and use of early warning information in agricultural systems. However, we also need policy priorities to address food and nutrition security in Northern Kenya once and for all. Firstly, by establishment of agricultural policies, trade, and tariffs at the county level and with a clear linkage to national government agricultural policy framework; secondly, by investment in rural infrastructural developments, education, and social capital complimented by incentives to invest in the sector e.g. provision of farm inputs and equipment’s, loans; thirdly, through effective management of the factors of
Production such as, land, water, and other resources; fourthly, establishment and allocation of funds for agricultural research and extension units and decentralization of research institutions services to counties; revamping of farmers field schools programs and finally investment in women.
Good governance plays a critical role in the eradication of poverty and hunger. Benefits of good governance would include the elimination of corruption, collusion, and nepotism and the development of participatory decision-making approaches (principle of inclusivity- homegrown policy is better placed to address the challenges at each county) as well as enhanced political will (at the county assembly) to deal with the problems of the poor and hungry, through formation of a legal framework to support and promote agricultural programmes.
Policies and public investments are needed to help people to get out of hunger and poverty. Such policies should encompass subsidies and safety nets threshold. Low-income people have very little buffers in the face of adversities such as drought; fall in price of their valued sources of livelihood such as camel, cattle, shoats and goats. Coping mechanisms involve designing and implementing credit and savings institutions by the county government in collaboration with the developmental partners in the area of food security such as KRCS, ECHO, FAO, WFP, OXFAM and other agencies.
In the last 50 years, we have blamed the central government for marginalization and under-development of Northern Kenya. But today, it is a high time that Governors from Northern Kenya counties put in place both the political and legal frameworks that enable development through stronger institutions, community participation and empowerment, social equity and justice, and county government accountability as prerequisites for the success of agricultural development strategies in their respective counties blue prints. It is never too late to replace the famous term FDP (Food Distribution Point) with county government silos and food granaries and bid farewell to the dependency syndrome “Eat and Wait, “receive and wait for the next ration” rather than “Wait and Eat – “plant and harvest ”
Finally, we must redefine our own narrative and change the perception that the region is only associated with drought, famine, insecurity, inter-communal clashes, cattle rustling and other non-developmental terminologies. We should set our priorities right.
Mr. Mohamed Sadiq Abdikarim is a Livelihood programme Consultant and PhD student at JKUAT, Nairobi