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Drought Resilience: Sustainable Livelihoods and development in Northern Kenya

Abdikarim M. Sadiq

DEVOLUTION: Northern Kenya


Drought Resilience: Sustainable Livelihoods and development in Northern Kenya


A.M. Sadiq


In 2011, the Horn of Africa faced the worst drought in 60 years, leading to emergency food insecurity in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and famine in Somalia. According to humanitarian reports, the impact was so disastrous; more than 13 million people across the region were in need of humanitarian assistance; 700,000 refugees fled Somalia and the highest malnutrition rates in the world were recorded. At the height of the drought, leaders from across East Africa gathered at the United Nation office in Nairobi to participate in a high-level conference on “Ending Drought Emergencies: A Commitment to Sustainable Solutions,” The summit was necessitated by the drought and deteriorating humanitarian conditions. In view of this, leaders met to craft lasting solutions to the hunger crisis in the region- are there any progress made after the last drought? – Then, how prepared are we as a nation?

It is not possible to control the occurrence of droughts, although the resulting impacts may be mitigated to a certain degree; firstly, through appropriate monitoring systems (Early warning) and management strategies; secondly, by developing a comprehensive long-term water resources management policies and programmes that may significantly decrease the risks associated with drought, hence reducing vulnerability level and increasing community resilience to drought. Thirdly, by developing strategies that includes both preventive measures (reducing the risk and effects of uncertainty) and mitigation measures strategies (limiting the adverse impacts of drought). Fourthly, Drought management calls for proactive management by developing detailed actions well planned in advance, that involves holistic revamp of infrastructural systems, establishment of contingency plans, institutional capacity development, enhancement of public awareness and enactment of laws on disaster Management is very crucial as well.

During the last drought, media played an excellent role by highlighting the plight of the people in Northern Kenya through its televised news and programmes around the world that engaged both the government and humanitarian Agencies just in time. The Kenyan private sector were as well not left behind, they immediately initiated philanthropic initiatives such as Kenyans-for-Kenya Initiative (K4K)- a mobile (Technology) based fundraising campaign- to raise funds so as to provide foods and non- foods assistance to those affected by drought.

In nutshell, the country doesn’t have effective multi-sectoral national system of analysis and alert in northern Kenya- then, if this is not the case, one must take full responsibility – for this systematic failure. The government response to the drought was through a crisis – management approach, rather than developing a comprehensive, long-term drought preparedness policies and plans to mitigate its impact. Drought planning is not one hour lecture; it requires wider stakeholders consultation and full commitment (financial and manpower) with clear focus on risk management, so as to reduce its impact on socio-economic and environmental aspect of the community livelihood.

Following the promulgation of the new constitution, Kenyans witnessed a two-tier system of governance –National and County government. The objective of devolution under article 174 (f) of the constitution Kenya was “To promote social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible service throughout Kenya”. In this context, drought remains as one of the underpinning factor to development and the leaders of Northern Kenya counties should develop a mitigation measures and management of drought impact. Some of this measure includes development of drought management Plans (DMP) at the county level should be prepared prior to drought, establishment of Multi-Agency Coordination group comprising of all development patners in the county, establishment of disaster contingency funds (budgetary allocation), adequate planning for food, health services, veterinary services, and rehabilitation of water systems; and finally, investing in the necessary infrastructures.

It’s a high time that the county government leadership to be proactive in drought management and call to an end the usual government cosmetics strategies of quick-fix approach- last minute rush and flagging of relief food. Governors from northern Kenya counties should embark on the drought resilience program and supporting the shift from emergencies to long-term building of resilience in the Northern Kenya- the only gateway to enhance livelihoods and sustainable development.


The writer is a consultant with an International Organization &  PhD (Strategic management) student,  Email:



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