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How devolution is changing lives for the better in Garissa County.

By Yussuf Ali korow

Launching of the Hagarbul water project by the County Governor Nathif Jama. The function was also graced by the County Senator Mohamed Haji Yusuf

Launching of the Hagarbul water project by the County Governor Nathif Jama. The function was also graced by the County Senator Mohamed Haji Yusuf.

For the purposes of fulfilling its development manifesto, the County Government of Garissa, soon after taking office, put in place a comprehensive County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) outlining the various programs and projects to be undertaken during the plan period 2013-2017. The plan was prepared taking into consideration the various problems and challenges that the county government was inheriting from literally 50 years of underdevelopment. It was put together with the objective of improving the livelihoods of the people of the county through pro-active and effective interventions in all key sectors such as water, healthcare, crop production, livestock, education, and roads.

The CIDP was put together from separate plans by each of the departments and for ease of execution, each department prioritized the required development projects and the execution timeliness on the basis of two broad categories:  immediate to short term (1-2 years) and medium term (3-5 years).

It is also worth mentioning that our development agenda, as envisaged by our CIDP, is driven by policies, procedures and regulations that are benchmarked on the national planning strategy and our country’s Vision 2030 blueprint which aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrialized middle-income country by 2030.

Execution of the CIDP objectives is ongoing in earnest with the support of well- articulated Rapid Result Initiatives (RRIs) committed to by each department.

In our devolution caravan’s journey, I illustrate succinctly some of the various accomplishments by the different departments during the review period and if devolution brought change that Kenyans were yearning for.

Despite the general devolution teething problems, we acknowledge that this is not always easy.  Continued strong local leadership will be needed at all levels to deliver the best possible outcomes for communities.

Hagarbul water project:

The hagarbul borehole in Dadaab sub-county is among one of the major water projects that the county government has undertaken in the last three years in order to improve the water sector in the county. Hagarbul water project is situated in Hagarbul location, about 25km from Dadaab town. About 3,000 cows, 12,000 goats and 1,800 donkeys access the strategic water reserve every day.

Before the construction of Hagarbul water project by the county Government people used to move with their herd for about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to look for any source of water but thanks to devolution, with the current system of governance in the counties, arid and semi-arid areas have put together a mechanism to improve water services in the region.

Northern Kenya, an arid region inhabited by nomadic pastoralists, is increasingly prone to droughts, a problem that has depleted livestock, water and pasture.

Migration during drought periods exposes animals to diseases as they converge on the remaining grazing land and watering points. And pasture and water scarcity continue to be a key driving force for conflict between communities as livestock and people move around the county.

But a two-year effort to bring together a range of adaptations to the worsening drought – including new wells and other water sources, carefully managed grazing reserves and better veterinary care in the county  government  is helping pastoralists to manage drought better and protect their animals, incomes and families with Hagarbul water project proving to be a good case study.

Women and Water

Mama Halima is just one of many people benefiting from the water project in hagarbul, a widow from the village who used to walk for 30km (18 miles) each day to the nearest water pan with the risk of facing wild animals on the way, to fetch water, Today a smiling mother of five walks only a kilometer and a half to a hagarbul boreholes, which has cleaner water.

“Every woman carried a 20-liter jerry can on her back and a 5 liters one in both hands every day,” Halima recalls about her former trek, while old people and elder girls were left to watch over the children and gather fodder for the animals. With just 30 liters of water available a day for both people and animals, hard choices had to be made, she said. “Goats were the priority, otherwise you had no milk production that day. You had to make a choice every day between food and cleanliness” Halima said.

With devolution, the herders say life is now much better. “Two days is the longest it takes now to know what is ailing your cow, we have pasture, the water is available despite the distance and the veterinary officer is near,” said  Hassan Abdi , 64 years old resident of Hagarbul location  who said that now he is “not worried about my family.”  Similarly, says better access to water has made life much easier.

“With the water a kilometer and a half away, women have time to do other daily chores. Hygiene at home is a priority now. Animals produce more milk, their weight is better (which helps) fetching good money on the market. And food is not a problem anymore” she said.

Governor of Garissa county Nathif Jama while launching the water project last year said that his administration will invest heavily in water projects to cushion herders from droughts as livestock was the back bone of the economy of Garissa and was worth investing in.


The Hagarbul water project is among several same water initiatives by the county government that is aimed to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and build resilience to climate change for 160,000 people.

This is a challenging time for Devolution stakeholders in Kenya, not only for Garissa County but the rest of other 47 counties as they seek to achieve more and better solutions for their communities.

After years of centralization, we must make devolution work. But hopes and promises are not outcomes, especially in Kenya where previous major policy changes have ended in disappointment.

Devolution is too narrowly framed if it becomes a way of boosting economic growth so that questions of social and democratic renewal are secondary. Can devolution, more broadly, be a means to diverse ends including a ‘rebalanced’ economy, fewer inequalities, more public goods and services, and revitalized democracy?  Only time will tell.

The writer is the Ag. Director of communication And Head of Governor’s press services, Garissa County.

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