Last week the story below the impending drought/famine crisis in Turkana appeared in the press:
“The government has dispatched a team to survey the famine situation in Turkana County. The drought has affected at least 400,000 people. More than 35,000 children are out of school due to the drought. Most school children have dropped out to join their parents in the search for water and food… the county government has sent out an appeal to humanitarian groups to come in aid of the starving families.”
It is no secret that Turkana is one of the country’s driest most food insecure regions. However despite the fact cyclical droughts in Turkana is common knowledge it seems that no sustainable plan has been put in place to mitigate the effects of the drought.
Even with the discovery of vast amounts of water in Turkana it appears that Turkana will suffer drought and famine yet again? Last year two underground aquifers, storing billions of litres of water were discovered in Turkana. The aquifers are estimated to hold enough water reserves to sustain, not only Turkana’s water consumption, but the whole of Kenya’s water consumption for the next 70 years as well.
There is little doubt that with the right policies the discovery of the water aquifers has the potential to change the lives and livelihoods of the people of Turkana County and the country as whole. So where are the policy makers, given the drought situation in Turkana is well known?
However for arguments sake let us say it is too soon to take advantage of the water in Turkana because the requisite infrastructure is yet to be put in place, and it will be a while before the Turkana will be able to take advantage of the discovery of water. It is still ironic that people in one part of the country are currently suffering for lack of food, when the National Cereals and Produce turned away produce from farmers in a different part of the country.
At end of last year NTV reported that the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) turned away farmers produce for lack of ways and means to the store the produce:
“Maize farmers in Uasin Gishu and Tranz Nzoia counties say they have nowhere to take their produce. The NCPB depots in Ziwa, Eldoret and Moi’s Bridge are not taking any maize, and the one in Moi’s Bridge in particular is our point of focus today. Hundreds of trucks have lined up at the depot for a week now, but they can’t deliver the maize, as the facility does not have fuel to dry their maize.”
However this may not be ironic as one thinks, as maize or the lack of maize, has been a subject of several scandals. A World Bank Report estimated that the country had lost nearly Kshs 1 billion in the maize scandal of 2009.
So drought and famine, in a region of the country that has the most water, and people in one section starving while NCBP turns away produce; failure of priorities, and policy?