NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 19 – It’s not every day that the schedules of not one but four Cabinet Secretaries are aligned for the sole purpose of addressing the press but when the Head of State requires regular public updates, things can be moved around.
The Cabinet Secretaries for Agriculture, the National Treasury and Devolution all in red ties and fingers intertwined before them with grave looks on their faces flank the Cabinet Secretary in charge of water Eugene Wamalwa.
The red worn by Willy Bett, Henry Rotich and Mwangi Kiunjuri respectively perhaps symbolic of the critical drought situation they gathered round a boardroom table to address. “We have a plan and we’re on top of this,” Wamalwa sought to assure.
That being said, he added that the public needed to brace itself for the, “terrible new normal,” of drought followed by floods on account of climate change; the Ndakaini dam exhibiting all time new lows at just over 40 percent in water levels.
Still, his counterpart Bett again sought to assure, that while the situation may be, “critical,” it did not yet qualify as a national disaster.
Kiunjuri the more political of the bunch also sought to make clear that while the Jubilee administration could not be held accountable for the changes in weather patterns, it was doing everything in its power to mitigate the effects of the drought.
A budget of Sh21 billion was allocated to said drought mitigation measures last year with Sh5.4 billion set aside for the months of November, December and January; Sh9.5 billion for February, March and April and Sh7 billion for the period thereafter should the drought situation persist.
The funds are to facilitate the provision of food and cash transfers to the Arid and Semi-Arid counties and an additional nine counties as well as in the purchase of deteriorated livestock for slaughter.
“The Ministry (of Devolution and Planning) continues to distribute relief food to all affected counties and the numbers are expected to increase from the current 1.5 million to 2 million people by the end of January, 2017,” Bett said.
“By end of February, relief food distribution will reduce by 50 per cent in favour of cash transfers,” which Rotich said was, “most effective,” in areas where food was available just out of reach. “It will boost purchasing power.”
A further Sh1.6 billion is being released, Bett said, for the period ending March to upscale water trucking and storage, distribution of water bowsers and for the repair, rehabilitation and maintenance of boreholes.
A decision on whether or not to import maize would however be reached, Bett said, on January 27 when President Uhuru Kenyatta received a multi-agency taskforce report on the drought situation.
Rotich however sought to make clear that no genetically modified maize would be imported for human consumption but should it become necessary, it could be imported as livestock feed.