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NEWS: Research to boost Kenya’s water, energy and food security

New research by Pegasys Institute, the Institute for Development Studies and Losai Management – and supported by CDKN – will recommend solutions for relieving the pressure on Kenya’s natural resources.

The 2010 Kenyan constitution devolved many functions to the county level, including those relating to the use and management of natural resources. At the same time, Kenya is increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate and resulting flooding and droughts.

This 18 month project will assess the institutional arrangements in two major river basins; the Tana and southern Ewaso Ng’iro which combined, cover parts of central, Eastern, and coastal Kenya. The areas are home to very different levels of poverty, population densities as well as varying agriculture and ecology.

The upper Tana is characterised by rain-fed cash crop agriculture: tea, coffee and maize; the middle and lower, drier, areas in the basin are mostly used as grazing land, dry land farming and dry land forestry. The Ewaso Ng’iro drains southwards from the Mau Forest, an area under threat from logging and agricultural expansion, into Lake Natron; an internationally renowned Ramsar site of wetland conservation.

The natural resources within these regions are essential to the livelihoods of communities and wildlife, who rely on healthy, functioning ecosystems for grazing and fishing. The rivers as a source of fresh water is critical for livestock and domestic use, it is the lifeblood for basic survival as well as prosperity and development.

Barbara Schreiner of Pegasys explains that “both these basins face huge challenges from current and future climate variability. Pressure for increased land use from neighbouring communities, a lack of capital and incentives to invest in natural resource management all contribute to the strain.” Not only is there competition for resources, but also an ever-growing demand for food, energy and water.

Efforts to manage natural resources in Kenya are fragmented, both horizontally and vertically between the county and national levels. This research will propose policy and institutional shifts that could contribute to more resilient, robust and socially inclusive outcomes in the two river basins, and aims to contribute to the wider climate challenges faced in Kenya.

The project hopes that the proposed shifts will benefit, among others, “rural communities and poor rural women, who face particular disadvantages and challenges” from the effects of climate variability and the dependency on the area’s natural resources.

Some challenges already identified are:

  • Lack of formal institutional collaboration arrangements;
  • Unclear stakeholder roles and responsibilities;
  • Lack of skilled personnel to make decisions for climate compatible development;
  • Inadequate institutional capacity for effective management;
  • Ineffective communication strategies.

By recommending mechanisms to address these and other gaps, the team aims to deliver practical solutions to advance socially inclusive, gender-sensitive climate change compatible development.

The researchers explain that “the project approach is participatory, bringing policy and decision makers into the process from the beginning, in order to support the development of sustainable outcomes and to enhance the potential for uptake of the research.” The project will also include policy dialogues to engage policy makers in Kenya during the course of the project and will produce reports and policy briefs to inform developing country policy makers in Kenya, as well as further afield where common challenges are being felt.


Image credit: Guillaume Baviere

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