Guest blog by Lydia Guda.
Lydia is the author/creator of Ecolife254 which is an environmental blog focused on environmental awareness, promotion of clean and green practices and promotion of sustainable living.
The site also aims at restoration and regeneration of natural resources in Kenya.
Drought is a deficiency of precipitation over a long period of time resulting in water scarcity. Currently, Kenya is facing one of the worst droughts in five years; this has resulted in a myriad of direct and indirect economic impacts.
In Kenya, agriculture is mostly rain fed; therefore, the drought has resulted in drying up of crops, crop failure and a reduction in harvests and produce. This has also resulted in inflation and an increase in price of commodities; A bag of maize (a staple food in Kenya), has increased in price by 200 kshs. This has led to an increase in maize flour prices and all other direct products of maize.
Another impact of drought is a drastic drop in water levels which affects energy production. When it comes to electricity production, the country still relies on rain, a drop in water levels in dams and reservoirs leads to less electricity production. Which in turn leads to higher commodity prices and a reliance on fossil fuels for energy production, such as diesel.
Water scarcity also translates to a reduction in the availability of clean portable water in both rural and urban households. In urban settings there are water rationings (water levels have dropped to below 50% in Ndakaini dam, the capital city’s main water source resulting in up to 3 days of water rationing for city residents) and for rural set-ups it translates to longer walks to rivers and other water sources. This has economic implications since more money is spent in buying water from vendors.
Drought also results in conflicts due to dwindling resources. Fights break out between communities and companies, concerning access to available pasture and water. A company that uses and redirects water upstream can lead to little to none flowing downstream for community members to use.
The tourism sector has also been affected; the game reserves and parks have dried up too, affecting the wildlife. This has economic implications since tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner in Kenya.
The dry, dusty and hot conditions result in a lot of health issues; sunburns, heatstroke and flu. This all translates to more use of money and increased economic strain.
Relation to environmental degradation:
The current intensity of the drought is as a result of destruction and deforestation especially of the Mau Forest complex, an important water catchment area. This has led to reduced rains in the past two years and drying up of some rivers hence increasing the intensity of the current drought.
Although drought is devastating and cannot be prevented, it is not an accident or an unpredictable event, it is a phenomenon that is anticipated and with proper planning its negative effects can be minimized. This is achieved through proper drought preparedness and mitigation efforts.
One way is through zoning; for proper and effective mitigation and preparation efforts, zoning has to be done and dry lands, which are the most affected areas, be classified into 2; dry lands with little to no water and dry lands with low but sufficient water. This is so that each area can have specific mitigation measures, which increases their effectiveness.
Another way is by changing and diversifying farming systems; currently the system is mainly rain fed (78% of food in Kenya is from farming and 98% of this is rain fed). This is attained through practicing climate-smart agriculture.
Kenya has 2-6m3 storage capacity of water per capita, a unit of water has to be correctly priced so as to avoid it being wasted. Water has to be adapted to the different particular needs, water management and conservation. Irrigation systems should be made more efficient to minimize water wastage. Other water sources should be explored (underground water sources, desalinization of ocean water) other than the conventional rain-based sources.
Another way is for the government to invest in early warning systems and risk analysis; through this, early preparations can be made, e.g. destocking in time or prior to the start of the drought. This not only gives the affected community much needed money, but also reduces the rate at which resources are depleted
(image source – FAO)
Additionally, restoring and protecting our ecosystem goes a long way in mitigating future drought occurrences; a healthy ecosystem is a long-term investment. A healthy ecosystem provides reliable rainfall that can be harvested for future use through dams and rainwater harvesting.
So in the next rainy season - plant a tree or two.
With the changing climate, unpredictable weather patterns, adaptation is paramount to reduce the casualties and cope with the changes and everyone has to be involved and play their part, after all everyone is affected whether in an urban, rural, arid or semi-arid set-up.
It is all connected to a resilient and friendly environment.
What is your opinion? We'd like to hear your comments.