Environment

Why We Must Focus on Water Security, Agricultural Productivity and Food Safety

God has for­ev­er shown kind­ness to Kenya, a nation often grap­pling with water scarci­ty, and now, we are wit­ness­ing an unusu­al mete­o­ro­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non — abun­dant rain­fall! I am lit­er­al­ly writ­ing this arti­cle amidst the rain while in Naivasha for a great couple’s retreat ses­sion dur­ing a month that has always been con­sid­ered the dri­est for many years. Typ­i­cal­ly, more than two-thirds of the coun­try receives less than 700mm of rain annu­al­ly, with only 11% expe­ri­enc­ing plen­ti­ful show­ers. How­ev­er, in recent months, we have seen wide­spread and heavy rains, a stark con­trast to the five con­sec­u­tive failed rainy sea­sons we endured before last year.

As we cel­e­brate in the cur­rent down­pours, there’s an impend­ing risk of return­ing to dri­er times. This alter­na­tion between extremes under­scores the need for effi­cient water man­age­ment. It is fine that Kenya already has a Nation­al Water Har­vest­ing and Stor­age Strat­e­gy in place, I sug­gest that this be a time to revamp and rein­force our approach. Well thought out invest­ments in infra­struc­ture like rooftop rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing, sur­face runoff col­lec­tion, grey­wa­ter reuse, and sand dams are more than just ben­e­fi­cial – we must see them as fun­da­men­tal for water security.

Reflect­ing on the gospel tune “Let it Rain,” our pol­i­cy should be more proac­tive than pas­sive. It’s not enough to just let it rain — we must be inten­tion­al to har­ness every sin­gle drop. In rur­al areas, where piped water is a lux­u­ry, rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing is a neces­si­ty, albeit ham­pered by the nev­er-end­ing finan­cial constraints.

I sug­gest that we emu­late Aus­trali­a’s approach to water con­ser­va­tion through tax deduc­tions for water facil­i­ties. Offer­ing tax incen­tives or sub­si­dies for water tanks and relat­ed equip­ment could great­ly enhance water stor­age and recharge ground­wa­ter avail­abil­i­ty after rains. Such a strat­e­gy might save bil­lions in poten­tial human­i­tar­i­an aid and sta­bi­lize food prices by avert­ing short­ages. What do you think?

On the oth­er hand, it is impor­tant to appre­ci­ate that the respon­si­bil­i­ty of effi­cient farm­ing does­n’t lie sole­ly with the gov­ern­ment – farm­ers must also be delib­er­ate to adapt. Last year, some farm­ers cap­i­tal­ized on the rains, enjoy­ing up to three plant­i­ng sea­sons and bumper har­vests. It’s a clear indi­ca­tion that with the right infor­ma­tion and resources, agri­cul­tur­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty can soar. We must there­fore make this work because, in my opin­ion, true lead­er­ship and gov­er­nance hinge not on the dis­course of tax­a­tion, but on a relent­less com­mit­ment to enhanc­ing farm pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. It is far eas­i­er to gov­ern a cit­i­zen reap­ing boun­ti­ful har­vests than one bur­dened by hunger.

Accord­ing­ly, I sug­gest that there ought to be a well-orga­nized col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Kenya Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Depart­ment, Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, and all rel­e­vant arms of gov­ern­ment to play a piv­otal role. By pro­vid­ing time­ly, farmer-spe­cif­ic weath­er fore­casts and agri­cul­tur­al advice, these insti­tu­tions can guide farm­ers in max­i­miz­ing the ben­e­fits of the cur­rent weath­er pat­terns even at the tail end of the ongo­ing rains. For exam­ple, the expect­ed abun­dant har­vest is only as good as its preser­va­tion. Inef­fi­cient food stor­age not only lead to waste but also con­tin­ue to pose mind bog­gling health risks, as evi­denced by the trag­ic afla­tox­in con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in Makueni and Kitui in 2004, which claimed 125 lives. Much more severe unre­port­ed sit­u­a­tions con­tin­ue to be expe­ri­enced because small scale farm­ers lack stor­age tech­niques and facil­i­ties which are vital to main­tain­ing food qual­i­ty and availability.

As we nav­i­gate this peri­od of abun­dant rain­fall, it’s cru­cial to think and act strate­gi­cal­ly. This means not just enjoy­ing the present boun­ty but prepar­ing for future uncer­tain­ties. I sug­gest that our pol­i­cy­mak­ers must urgent­ly embrace poli­cies and prac­tices that ensure short, medi­um, and long-term water secu­ri­ty, agri­cul­tur­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, and food safe­ty. Just like in a mar­riage it is time for pol­i­cy­mak­ers and farm­ers to allow to be vul­ner­a­ble to each oth­er so that we learn to turn this tem­po­rary abun­dance into a lega­cy of resilience and pros­per­i­ty. Think green act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Founder and Chair­per­son of Green Africa Foun­da­tion, an orga­ni­za­tion that was found­ed in the year 2000 that cham­pi­ons Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment in Africa.

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