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Kenya’s ASALs, the Emerging Frontier for Opportunities and Development

09/10/2013 1:00 - 

The government of Kenya is ready to collaborate with different stakeholders in building capacities and enabling marginalized communities in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) of Kenya to break away from poverty.  

Speaking at the second national ASALs Stakeholders Forum (ASF), held beginning of October in Nairobi, Ms. Anne Waiguru, cabinet secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, said that communities will have to be empowered with relevant skills and capacities to ensure effective utilization of resources. 

"We are in the process of establishing and revamping ASAL transformation structures to ensure that resources are better aligned with priorities of communities in the ASALS,  and that they accommodate the important realities of life in these areas, such as their sparse and often mobile populations" she said.

ASALs constitute approximately 80% of Kenya's land mass and are home to about 20% of Kenya’s population.  Nearly 60% of national livestock and wildlife population are raised here. The counties with the highest levels of poverty against most human development indicators are in the arid lands. The ecosystems are most vulnerable due to climate change thus compounding development challenges.

"Fighting for limited resources like water and pasture are some of the key challenges facing ASAL areas," said Ms. Fatuma Galgalo from Maendeleo ya wanawake in Tana River. Pastoralists frequently have disagreements with peasant farmers. “These conflicts are however preventable if adequate conflict resolution mechanisms are put in place, for instance holding a forum like this where relevant stakeholders educate us on how to address our differences,” she added.

ASF is a platform created to maximise the collective voice and influence of ASAL communities and stakeholders, share information, experience and best practices, and promote dialogue between them and the national and county governments. “The national forum 2013, organized by ASF and FAO, and funded by ECHO, encourages all those working in ASALs to come together to coordinate their activities, collaborate with others, deepen accountability to each other and to the people of the region,” stated Prof. Abdi Y. Guliye, ASF chair.

"FAO has improved management of natural resources by building capacity at community and national level in climate–smart agriculture, sustainable land management, soil and water conservation, sustainable forest management, among other sustainable initiatives," outlined Mr. Robert Allport, FAO’s representative in Kenya, a.i.

"Also,  FAO has improved livelihood resilience of targeted, vulnerable populations particularly those living in Kenya’s ASALs, through enhancing their productive capacity, increasing availability of livelihood options, improving their ability to prepare for and respond to shocks through disaster risk management initiatives," he added.

In addition, support to the ASALs has been a priority to the European Union (EU) knowing that agriculture and livestock are the mainstays of the Kenyan economy and is predominantly rain fed, therefore making it highly vulnerable to climate change and drought. “We are committed to

providing a considerable portion of our development cooperation through the Kenyan Rural Development Programme, a mechanism for jointly working with the government in this pivotal area, which is why we have committed almost 8 billion Kenyan shillings over 5 years in this area alone,” said Ms. Marjaana Sall, European Union Deputy Head of Delegation.

According to the EU, there is more work to do. Although a National Drought Contingency Fund has yet to be established the instrument is crucial, as it will finance a timely response much earlier on in the drought cycle, and will provide a trusted mechanism for both the government and its development partners to channel their support. The EU has already provisioned €10 million as capital seed to support the operationalization of this fund.

The forum was aimed at briefing members on the progress since its inaugural forum held in July 2012; highlighting investment opportunities for development in the ASALs; defining priority activities of the ASF in relation to the national and county governments; and building further commitment to ASF among ASAL stakeholders. 

Submitted by: Emah Madegwa
FAO Office: FAOKE
Country: Kenya