Experts warn of dire situation as dry spell ravages livelihoods
The effects of the worsening drought have begun to be felt, with tens of rivers across the country drying up.
In the North Rift and parts of western Kenya, water sources are at risk of drying up due to the persistent drought and massive forest degradation.
Environmental experts and National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) officials in the region have warned that the water volume in most lakes, dams and reservoirs face immense decline owing to the biting drought that is blamed on climate change.
“The five water towers of Cherangany, Mt Kenya, Mt Elgon, Mau Complex and the Aberdares that are a lifeline for Kenyans are experiencing declining water volumes because of the prolonged drought and destruction of water catchments by human activities,” said Mr Mathew Koech, an Eldoret-based environmental expert.
As a result, several towns in western Kenya are faced with recurrent water shortage due to what the experts attributed to low water volumes.
The towns faced with shortage of water for domestic and industrial use include Bungoma, Webuye, Kitale, Eldoret, and Kapenguria.
According to Mr Koech, Kitale receives an average of 8,000 cubic metres of water against demand of 10,000 cubic metres.
Bungoma has a supply of 2,200 cubic metres against a demand of 6,400 cubic metres, while Webuye receives 3,513 cubic metres. Kimilili gets an average of 3,600 cubic metres against demand of 10,575 cubic metres.
“The water volumes in most lakes and rivers are expected to decline further, causing human and environmental damages, unless the rains fall,” said Mr Koech.
Several rivers in West Pokot County are on the verge of drying up as pastoralists lose their livestock. They include Kanyangareng, Iyon Kotoruk, Anuan, Kotupor, Lomut, Kaipony, Orwa, Tamugh, Kalaywa and Sarimach.
“The tributaries that supply water to most rivers in the region have dried up, posing a serious threat to human beings and livestock,” said Mr Wilfred Longronyang, the county executive for water.
A report by the NDMA indicates that the drought in North Pokot and Central Pokot sub-counties is at an alarming stage and a large population is in dire need of food.
The county drought coordinator, Mr Gabriel Mbogho, said the proportion of children at risk of malnutrition rose by 69 per cent from November, which he said falls outside the normal range.
“The drought situation is worsening and requires urgent intervention measures,” said Mr Mbogho.
The report further revealed that pastures had deteriorated and there exists no significant variation between the pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihood zones.
Some pastoralists have migrated to Uganda in search of water and pasture for their livestock.
In Embu County, three permanent rivers that form the lifeline of the people of the lower Mbeere region have dried up, putting the lives of people and animals at risk.
Rivers Thuci, Thiba and Ena, which are relied upon by residents of Evurore, Muminji, Kirie, Kiambere and Makima wards, have dried up, leaving behind a trail of dry crops and forcing residents to walk long distances to fetch the precious liquid.
The rivers are major tributaries of River Tana, whose waters have receded to alarmingly low levels, leaving thousands of people facing famine.
Residents, led by MCAs Albert Kigoro (Evurore), Ms Peninah Mutua (Makima) and Ms Loise Mbuya (nominated), said the area had not experienced rainfall since November, while people living upstream had diverted water to their farms for irrigation.
Mbeere Muguka Farmers Sacco Ltd chairman Francis Kimori, together with Mr Lenny Masters Mwaniki, said farmers were travelling for long distance to buy water for their plants.
Ms Mutua said a major row was brewing since some farmers had diverted River Thiba’s course, leaving those living downstream without access to water.
“There are farmers upstream, in Don Bosco and Gachuriri, who are diverting water to their farms,” said Ms Mutua. “People are relying on some stagnant water on the river bed, which is very risky.”
NDMA Embu coordinator Tarsilah Birauka had in October warned that the region would experience low rainfall.
NDMA projects that major water sources in Isiolo County are likely to dry up in two months. County coordinator Lordman Lekalkuli said pastoralists who depend on rivers Ewaso Ng’iro, Bisanadi and Isiolo will be affected.
“If it doesn’t rain soon, then the rivers will dry up, affecting thousands of herders and livestock,” said Mr Lekalkuli.
Reports by Barnabas Bii, Oscar Kakai, Charles Wanyoro and Vivian Jebet