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 majorly 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 increase in price of commodities. Example; a bag of maize, it being the staple food, has increased in price by 200 kshs. This has led to an increase in maize flour prices and all other direct products of maize.
poor crop yield
Another impact of drought is drastic drop in water levels therefore affecting 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. This results in alternative energy production sources like diesel. This also directly impacts prices of commodities, making them more expensive, since the energy cost has to be incorporated.
Water scarcity also translates to reduced 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. There are fights between communities so as to access the available pasture and water, fights between communities and companies, for instance, a company that uses and redirects water upstream leading 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 heat conditions result in a lot of health issues sunburns, heatstroke, and flu. These all translates to more use of money and hence an economic strain
Relation to environmental degradation:
The current intensity of the drought is as a result of destruction and deforestation especially of the Mau 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 hence increasing their effectiveness.
Another way is by changing and diversifying farming systems; currently the system is majorly 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 (https://ecolifeke.com/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 done, example destocking in time or prior to the start of the drought. This not only gives the affected community much needed money but also reduces 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 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 the state of the environment is a resilient and friendly environment.