Bancy M. Mati1
Professor of Soil & Water Engineering, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), P.O. BOX 62000 - 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
AbstractWater is life, water is food, water is health, water is energy, yet water is wealth. Water is many things to different people. Water is a very fragile item, yet it has such power to build or to destroy.... We are all users and managers of water – the rich, poor, young or old, every one of us on this planet. Water has no substitute!
Kenya’s vision 2030 will be attained, the day the poor in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) will attain middle income status, meaning earning well above a dollar a day. This will involve development of the five capitals (i.e. natural, human, social, physical and financial) to uplift human livelihoods, while also protecting vital ecosystems. Water, its availability in adequate, reliable and sustainable quantities and quality is a most important requirement for the achievement of this Vision. But current situation in Kenya is that ASALs suffer because of both real and imagined “lack of water” - real because ASALs receive scanty and erratic rainfall, averaging 150 to 750 mm per year. Also real because, since the 1970s, serious droughts have occurred e.g. in 1972, 1974/75, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983/84, 1991/92, 1995/96, 1999/2000, 2004, 2006, 2009 and currently in 2010/2011. Drought recurrence is getting ever more frequent, and over the last decade, drought events occurred every two years. The lack of water is also artificial because of failure to harness, store and manage whatever rain that falls. Furthermore, ground water resources are poorly developed, low quality water e.g. brackish water is not exploited and there are numerous socio-economic constraints.
This paper therefore presents various ways to achieve sustainable development and management of water resources for people, their crops, livestock, rangelands, ecosystems and economic development in the ASALs. It draws from examples of successful water interventions in other dry areas of Africa and the Middle East, focusing on technologies and practices that are generally adaptable by poor and smallholder land users. Special attention is given to water for livestock, particularly under pastoral and agro-pastoral systems. Some of the technologies described in the paper include; harvesting rainwater, its storage in structures or in the soil profile, ways to improve recharge of shallow aquifers, utilization of ground water, conserving water, making use of brackish/saline water, and innovations in crop selection and water management.
It is well known that technologies on their own cannot lead to development. There is need for a blend of hardware and software to trigger acceptance of doing things differently at all levels (Government, local people, private sector). Success is achievable through learning by doing, and when people become motivated enough to appreciate adapting new knowledge. This paper also explores examples of recent development approaches, that have worked in countries which have attained food security (e.g. Malawi, Burkina Faso, India) or have fast-tracked economic development (e.g. China, Brazil, Rwanda), where investments in agricultural development/water management were major drivers. It also includes examples of Kenyan community level successes in water management. Aware that in the past, a lot of funding has gone into water-related development projects in Kenyan ASALs, yet problems seem to be escalating, this paper is not evaluating what has happened, but rather, it gives insights into what others who have succeeded have done. Kenyan ASALs can be made more productive through targeted water management interventions to support livelihoods and create wealth, by “making science, technology and innovation work for the poor in the ASALs of Kenya”.