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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).

Update and resources

Following the capacity building workshop, participants grouped together by county and developed action plans for WEF integration. Among the action plans implemented by participating stakeholders were the following:

  • Machakos: Establishment of a county WEF and climate change nexus steering committee, and a stakeholder mapping exercise seeing the registration of approximately 50 county stakeholders. This forum has played an influential role in advising the county budgetary processes around WEF and environment. Furthermore, upon hearing the work of the Machakos WEF nexus steering committee, the Machakos Water Company which is being funded by the African Development Bank to implement water projects such as the Miwongoni dam has agreed to incorporate elements of the WEF integrated planning into their projects, such as through river bank protection and tree planting.
  • Laikipia: Successful launch of the tree campaign, with over 370,000 tree seedlings contributed for planting by the county and stakeholders towards the 40% tree cover in 4 years campaign.
  • Narok: The Narok team constituted a steering committee for implementing the WEF-Nexus approach in Narok. As part of their follow up action plans, the Water Resource Users Association from Narok were taken on a study Tour to Naivasha basin to learn from them how their counterpart in Naivasha was practicing catchment protection and adaptation measures.

The research findings have been summarised in four policy briefs, and the following articles have been submitted to journals (currently awaiting publication):

CDKN funding: £200,000

CDKN project manager: Margaret Kamau

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Project Highlights