Sh1.4b released for drought intervention

January 12, 2011 12:00 am

, AIROBI, Kenya Jan 12 – The Ministry of Water and Irrigation on Wednesday released Sh1.4 billion to help in alleviating the current drought situation across the country.

The announcement came after a four- hour meeting on Wednesday between the ministry\’s officials and 50 Members of Parliament from drought stricken areas that was called to discuss the crisis.

Water Assistant Minister Ferdinand Waititu urged relevant authorities in government to declare the drought a national disaster so that the country could seek assistance from the international community.

"We have proposed that we are going to increase the number of water bowsers by hiring or buying new ones, we are also appealing to the disciplined forces to release their bowsers so that we can fight this drought," Mr Waititu said.

The Assistant Minister also said that the ministry had put in place elaborate measures to intensify water harvesting saying that almost 60 percent of rain water is lost to the sea. He said that the ministry planned to increase the number of water pans and water dams.

Meanwhile the MPs led by Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim have asked the government to mobilise military and National Youth Service tankers to supply water in the affected areas.

"We are telling the government that the disaster is not coming, the disaster is here with us. If we don\’t act in the next couple of weeks we are going to start seeing livestock and people die," he said after the meeting which was held at the Old Chambers within Parliament Buildings.

The Upper and North Eastern communities are accustomed to the regular droughts that occur in the region between June and August, before the rains come between September and December. They traditionally prepare for the drought during the rainy season but the latest dry spell extended through the 2010 rainy season and has yet to break. The drought and extreme heat experienced in the day have dried out vegetation and water wells.

He said the La Niña weather conditions are likely to affect thousands of pastoralist households and threatened more than 22 million livestock. Displacement of families migrating in search of water, pasture and forage in Northern Kenya has already been witnessed,

At the same time, two other lawmakers have called on the government to release money to mop up maize held by farmers in Rift Valley to feed victims of drought in Northern Kenya.

MPs Joshua Kutuny (Cherengany) and Peris Simam (Eldoret South) lashed out at the government saying it was a shame that some Kenyans were facing starvation while thousands of bags of maize were rotting in the granaries due to lack of market.

Mr Kutuny said the government should now offer better prices for the grain to entice farmers to release their stocks.

"It is absolute nonsense for the government to claim there is food shortage.  They should move with speed because most of the cereal farmers feel neglected by the government," Mr Kutuny said.

He threatened to mobilise farmers to boycott planting maize this season for other better paying crops if the government will not offer better prices.

According to the MPs, the National Cereals and Produce Board was turning away farmers with maize that exceeded 14 percent moisture content leading to huge loses.

Mr Kutuny claimed some farmers are holding up to 10,000 bags and the lack of market has seen the prices drop from Sh2, 400 to Sh800 per 90 kilogramme bag of maize.

On Wednesday, the Cabinet also held a meeting to discuss the food security situation in the country.

The meeting chaired by President Mwai Kibaki at State House Nairobi considered the emerging La Nina crisis and the measures that should be taken to mitigate the threat to food security, animal feed and water.

The meeting acknowledged that there were adequate provisions to deal with the immediate food shortages through the National Food Relief program and the strategic grain reserve programs.

It mandated the Cabinet Food Security Committee to work out details of the additional food requirements, especially for the vulnerable members of the population.

"The committee should work out requirements for the Livestock off take program to minimize losses that pastoralists may suffer. It should also take into account the resources that are already available to address these issues," a statement from State House said.

The committee was authorised to determine the amounts of fertilizer which the government should import this year to meet the national requirements at affordable prices.

"The Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock are directed to give a comprehensive account of the resources which were spent on these programs last year, as these expenditures were intended to be managed on a revolving basis."

The government went on to assure Kenyans that matters of food security were getting top priority and that necessary steps would be taken to minimise the impact of the La Nina weather conditions that were already being felt in some parts of the country.

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