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PROJECT: Enhancing institutional arrangements for integrated water, energy and food security in Kenya

Project Reference: RSGL-1401

The water, energy and food sectors are inextricably linked, and are often in competition with one another for land and natural resources. Policies and practices in one sector can have positive or negative impacts on the other sectors. In Kenya, land and water are increasingly becoming scarce as industries grow. Hydropower, irrigation and the extractive industries all require a slice of natural resources and have each played a part in driving competition. This is exacerbated by increasing rainfall variability and prevalence of drought and floods.  These pressures threaten livelihoods as well as national economic growth.

The 2010 Kenyan constitution devolved many functions to the county level, including those relating to the use and management of natural resources. This has resulted in tensions between the powers and functions of national and county level government. Efforts to manage natural resources in Kenya are currently fragmented, both vertically between the county and national levels, and horizontally across sectors and counties.

There are significant institutional challenges for ensuring integrated decision-making across the water, energy and food sectors within Kenya’s two-tier governance system. However, the Kenyan government is in the early days of implementing governance arrangements under the new Constitution, which provides a window of opportunity to examine these challenges and to propose institutional and policy options which might lead to better outcomes.

In the context of the 2010 Constitution and the tensions between national and county level government, this research has examined the current institutional arrangements and challenges for achieving integrated water-energy-food planning and decision making in Kenya. The project also focussed on the Tana and Esawo Ngiro basins. Looking at both formal and informal decision-making processes and norms, it has identified opportunities for improved vertical and horizontal integration in decision-making to support inclusive climate compatible development, with a particular focus on benefits for the poor and women. The  role of private sector and local entrepreneurs in implementing such integrated governance has also been examined. This research has provided recommendations for Kenya and also for other developing countries facing similar challenges.

This project was led by Barbara Schreiner at Pegasys Institute in South Africa, in partnership with Losai Management (Kenya) and the Institute for Development Studies (UK).

CDKN funding: £200,000

CDKN project manager: Ronald Mukanya (

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Project Highlights