Leadership, News

How We Can Use Turkana As A Model For Fixing Kenya’s Local Economy

Uchu­mi iko vibaya sana. This Swahili phrase, which means – the econ­o­my is doing real­ly bad­ly – has become a refrain in con­ver­sa­tions across Kenya.

The word econ­o­my comes from the ancient Greek word, ‘oikono­mia’ which lit­er­al­ly trans­lat­ed means the admin­is­tra­tive struc­ture of man­ag­ing pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­b­u­tion, and con­sump­tion of house­hold or vil­lage goods and ser­vices. Indeed, it is very impor­tant for us to go back to the house­hold-cen­tered basics as we seek to local­ize Kenya’s economy. 

First­ly, when peo­ple repeat­ed­ly say that the econ­o­my is very bad, they often mean that there are no jobs or that the cost of liv­ing has gone very high, which trans­lates to dif­fi­cult times in their house­holds. For the gov­ern­ment and econ­o­mists, words like ‘reces­sion’ come up when they are ana­lyz­ing a bad econ­o­my. Kenya’s Eco­nom­ic Report 2021 not­ed that ‘The pan­dem­ic has plunged the econ­o­my into a reces­sion, with a very sharp con­trac­tion expe­ri­enced for the first time in the last two decades.’

In light of the fore­go­ing, we all agree that the econ­o­my is in bad shape, hence there is no need to bela­bor that point. We should shift our focus on grow­ing our econ­o­my so that our house­holds can reap all the ben­e­fits of a strong economy.

For us to grow our econ­o­my in the most pow­er­ful and sus­tain­able man­ner that ben­e­fits house­holds, we must local­ize it. 

In 2021, the Kenya Nation­al Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (KNBS) released a report enti­tled, ‘inequal­i­ty trends and diag­nos­tics in Kenya 2020.’ The report ranked Turkana as the poor­est and most unequal coun­ty. This is what hap­pens when we don’t local­ize an econ­o­my. Turkana may be deemed as poor in strict eco­nom­ic terms, but its wealth poten­tial is boundless. 

For starters, Turkana is Kenya’s largest Coun­ty. At 68,680 square kilo­me­ters, it is almost three times the size of the great Nation, Rwan­da. This sheer size alone is enough proof of Turkana’s rich­es. We can­not afford to con­sign our largest Coun­ty into a bin of poverty. 

This expan­sive land is report­ed­ly home to at least 1,600,000 cat­tle. In 2021, the Gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted to pur­chas­ing 1,000 cat­tle from Turkana as a drought mit­i­ga­tion mea­sure. The bud­get for pur­chas­ing each cow was Shs20,000. If we go by this min­i­mal price of cat­tle, then Turkana’s 1,600,000 cat­tle are worth a whop­ping Shs32 bil­lion. The val­ue is even high­er if we work with live cat­tle weight at mar­ket price.  This is wealth that can be indus­tri­al­ized expo­nen­tial­ly if we local­ize Turkana’s economy.

The Unit­ed States pro­duces one-fifth of the world’s beef, mak­ing it the largest beef pro­duc­er glob­al­ly. South Africa’s annu­al pro­duc­tion of 950,000 met­ric tonnes of beef makes it Africa’s largest pro­duc­er. If we unlock Turkana’s local econ­o­my, that vast Coun­ty can cat­a­pult Kenya into such lev­els of beef pro­duc­tion. That will help Turkana a lot more than any health ever will. 

Turkana’s nat­ur­al resources are the key to unlock­ing its local econ­o­my. This neces­si­tates a par­a­digm shift that will tran­scend mar­ket­places into learn­ing insti­tu­tions and home­steads. Turkana chil­dren must be taught the immense val­ue of their land, live­stock, and oth­er nat­ur­al assets. They can­not grow up with a debil­i­tat­ing pover­ty mind­set. This means that our nation­al cur­ricu­lum must be respon­sive to unique geo­graph­i­cal and cul­tur­al attributes. 

At the house­hold lev­el, we must help par­ents to devel­op their local­ly avail­able resources like live­stock so that they can earn from them sus­tain­able liveli­hoods. This will even­tu­al­ly do away with the notion that Turkana’s wealth can only orig­i­nate from exter­nal sources. 

What is true for Turkana is true for the rest of the coun­try. All the 47 Coun­ties have unique nat­ur­al resources that can cre­ate wealth for them. Since the advent of devo­lu­tion in 2013, Coun­ty Gov­ern­ments have made com­mend­able strides in this direc­tion. But we still have a long way to go. 

In addi­tion to tap­ping opti­mal­ly into their respec­tive nat­ur­al resources, Coun­ties must also step up trade amongst them­selves. Such trade must be con­sis­tent­ly ben­e­fi­cial and prof­itable for house­holds. We must embrace this approach if we are to local­ize our econ­o­my in this coun­try. Think green, act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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