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Building drought resilience in Garissa and Tana River Counties in Kenya

Submitted by Nitya Jacob 16th December 2022 9:35
Farmers in Kenya

Adaptation Options

The IUCN project Building Drought Resilience (BDR) is implemented in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) of Garissa and Tana River counties in Kenya. The main objective of the  project is to improve the resilience of dryland communities within a river catchment against the impacts of increasingly severe and frequent drought, through strengthened ecosystem management and adaptive capacity of local communities. Hence, the project was developed taking into account both sustainable water and dryland management.

The project had to adopt an integrated approach in the management of water and pasture. This integrated approach incorporates both the participatory rangeland management planning with that of water sub-catchment management planning. As seen above, in the Water for Livestock project (Case Study #1), integrating the two approaches is useful because drylands are unique areas that require tailored and appropriate planning and management approaches.

Key specific aspects of Kenyan drylands include:

  • Scarcity of water resources and fragile heterogeneous landscapes that are prone to degradation;
  • Adverse impacts of climate change in recent decades contributing to higher rainfall variability and lower reliability than in the past;
  • Communal ownership of land and its use for nomadic pastoralism where mobility is integral to survival;
  • Increasing constraints to mobility as dry season grazing reserves and pastures areas are converted into farm lands and haphazard settlements;
  • The spread of invasive weeds such as Prosopis juliflora adversely affecting natural pastures;
  • High levels of poverty; strong reliance by communities on natural resources for livelihood options;
  • Weak governance system for natural resources management resulting in unsustainable use and;
  • Poor understanding of the dynamics and key elements of dryland systems leading to inappropriate approaches to development e.g. ad hoc provision of water resources.

So far, one of the main impacts from the project has been the identification and demarcation of livestock corridors (traditionally referred to as malkas) in the project areas to avoid conflict between livestock keepers and crop farmers. Malkas are access routes to water points and farmers are now not allowed to cultivate within the corridors. In addition, the project also promoted dry season grazing areas to be used by pastoralists by protecting the river banks. There has also been pasture and rangeland re-vegetation witnessed over a period of time associated with the project.

The project links directly with county and national government policy. Firstly, because the sub-catchment management planning process is a national government process being used by the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) as a standard for the whole country, whether in the ASALs or higher rainfall areas. At the same time, some aspects of land-use planning and natural resources management have been decentralized to the county levels. The project therefore aimed to influence WRMA’s policy by incorporating dryland specific concerns into this planning process.

WRMA is already testing this integrated approach by scaling it up in other dryland areas. Through such best practices from projects, policies may be influenced in addition to supporting capacity building activities. There is need for the Government of Kenya to adopt the integrated approach and process officially as a framework for the management of water and pasture in dryland areas.

The main lesson learnt from this project is that resource planning in drylands revolves around water and it is around water that the local laws and regulations for access and use of dryland resources are set. Water use and management in these ecosystems consequently has implications on access to vegetation, pastures, crops and other dryland resources.

Written by John P. Owino, IUCN-ESARO. Sourced from Davies, J., Barchiesi, S., Ogali, C.J., Welling, R., Dalton, J., and P. Laban (2016). Water in drylands: Adapting to scarcity through integrated management. Gland,  Switzerland: IUCN. 44pp