Droughts in Kenya are becoming increasingly regular, as the effects of global climate change become more apparent. Impacts of severe drought are all too evident in the millions of people affected and the substantial amounts of money in losses and damages. The economic cost of the 2008-2011 drought in Kenya, for example, was estimated at US$ 12.1 billion.
Frequent droughts give communities less time to recover between episodes. Their impact is exacerbated by factors such as insecurity, limited livelihood diversification, inadequate social and physical infrastructure, inadequate marketing systems and low investment. These factors increase vulnerability, which is likely to deepen with the effects of climate change.
Though droughts are unavoidable natural phenomena, their impacts can be mitigated by human action. The 2010-11 drought crisis in the Horn of Africa was a critical turning point in drought risk management when Heads of State and Government from IGAD member States met in Nairobi in September 2011 to discuss long term solutions. The Summit communiqué recognised that droughts are slow-onset phenomena which need not, and should not, lead to emergencies if they are properly monitored and managed. The phrase ‘Ending Drought Emergencies’ (EDE) was coined to capture this new sense of purpose.
A Kenya Government paper presented at the Summit signalled an important shift in policy, from one that reacts to the effects of droughts as they arise, to one that actively seeks to reduce vulnerability and risk through sustainable development. It was based on this that Kenya made a commitment to end the worst of the suffering caused by drought within ten years (2012-2022). A second phase of the strategy is being developed to push implementation to 2032.