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The Telescope

Kenya’s Disaster Preparedness Failed Kenyans At Hour Of Need

Recently a dam in Solai broke its walls generating a huge disaster. Surging waters swept through an area measuring 10 km, destroying lives and property on its paths. This disaster could have been avoided.

Politicians most notably former Subukia Mp Koigi Wamwere had forewarned about the looming tragedy but institutions charged with the responsibility of adjudicating complaints raised by the public turned a blind eye to the imminent disaster which retrospectively exposes a long trail of systematic failures and a dose of acute and quite frankly deliberate human error in Kenya’s disaster management.

That incident among several others that have occurred in the country uncovered a system that has notoriously fractionated responsibilities across multiple layers of government leaving it ham-fisted to respond when tragedy strikes.

Be it as it may, it is shocking to realize that Kenya potentially boasts of deep linkages in preparedness and international processes while responding to disasters.

Rescue efforts after the Solai Dam tragedy

Rescue efforts after the Solai Dam tragedy

Kenya has participated in both the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015) and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030), and was indeed among the first countries to sign up to the Africa Risk Capacity (ARC) – and makes the highest premium contribution in Africa in building resilience to disasters. Locally, there is a national policy that relevant ministries are required to allocate funds to respond to disasters.

In spite of this judicious measures there seems to be a grey area in how these resources interact while they trickle down from the top brass to their engagement at the grassroots level. Notably, coordination is primarily a worrying drift in and beyond disaster management in different functions of the government in the evolving relationship between county and national government.

With proper use of these funds national and county government officials across the country should benefit from knowledge strengthening on: disaster and resilience measurement, climate change dynamics, modelling, disaster response triggers, and thresholds and Kenyans should ultimately be benefactors to seamless policy implementation.

In summary, Kenya’s capacity to prepare and respond to disasters is not a data or information challenge; there are several sources of data, which could be joined up to improve decision-making and service delivery. In actual fact, Kenya is ahead of the other East African countries in regards to technology, data and information, and systems but what is lacking is the culture of preparedness, across and beyond key national functions and that should be dispirited.

The Telescope


Agriculture has been the bedrock of Kenya’s economy even before independence but the story has changed.

Today, the government can no longer reassure farmers that they can eke a living alongside the current wave of industrialization to provide the bulk of Kenya’s sustenance. More so, laws that once supported the country’s mainstay are so discriminatory it’s a miracle farmers still make a living out of agriculture.

Theoretically, the government has an elaborate food policy but it has yet to activate it. For years on end it has dragged its feet over what, admittedly, are difficult political and economic decisions.

As it is, Kenya is barely food self-sufficient. It’s like a cork bobbing on water which could easily go under.

Trip down memory lane At independence, the division of numerous formerly white-owned farms among Africans was a political necessity but over the years that has changed.

Although it is politically impossible to reverse that division today, there are alternatives to halt further fragmentation. coffee

Take for example the coffee industry. In its current state, it is clearly a crime against farmers. This sector has for years been manipulated and disoriented to facilitate the exploitation of the many by the rich few.

However, Kenya is not-yet an industrialized country, so there is not much one can do until jobs can be found meaning that in many ways more than one people still depend on agriculture.

But as days go by coffee farmers are ageing and their children don’t see a future in farming. Most of them make less than a dollar a day in their household. Farm sizes are small and continue to shrink due to population pressures. Chances are bleak for farmers and they will not hold out any longer.

Today, it’s unbelievable that farmers wallow in regulatory bondage whilst they can grow and sell their own crops.

More so, agriculture is a devolved function and county governments can provide farmers with soft loans to buy milling equipment so that through their cooperatives, they can process their produce to do value addition.

Counties can also help train farmers not just about crops, but also processing and marketing.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and the political class must seize the arc of history and correct this injustice and give farmers the chance to farm their way out of abject poverty.

He can free the farmer from regulatory bondage, allow them to grow, process, sell and own their own crop at fair pricing for both the dealer and farmer.

He should investigate the coffee sector with a view to prosecuting those who have brought in corruption, vandalism and thievery that have cost hardworking and innocent farmers so dearly.

This article was published on People Daily on Friday 4th December 2015