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Drought Worsens Pastoralists' Poverty

The Nation (Nairobi), 23 September 2000

The prolonged drought has worsened poverty among pastoralists and other vulnerable groups, the Kenya Vulnerability Update says. The report says falling livestock prices, coupled with a high mortality rate and banditry, is endangering the pastoralists' lives.

According to the report, substantial maize inflows from the neighbouring countries, coupled with imports by millers, traders and relief agencies, improved the stock during August. This led to slight fall in the dry maize prices.

However, despite the reduction, the prices were higher than during the same period in the previous two years.

It predicts a substantial price decline next year after harvest in the Rift Valley in November-December. Rift Valley is expected to produce 60 per cent of Kenya's long-rains maize crop.

The report predicts that Kenya will face a large shortfall in the next crop season. An estimated 1.4 million tonnes will be harvested compared with a seven-year average of 2.18 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, deforestation in Mt Kenya could prolong the power rationing problem. The forest is the catchment area for the hydro-electric power stations along the Tana River, including the vital Masinga dam.

UNEP sources indicated that a large section of the forest had been destroyed, threatening the natural course for rain water from the forest into the Tana.

Due to forest destruction, the rains, expected to be above normal in this region, could result in massive soil erosion, which could divert the water course in other directions.

This would threaten the accumulation of water levels at Masinga, which is rapidly drying up. Environmentalists warn that the dam could fail to fill or be silted even further come the next rains.

It is said the area of forests destroyed so far could take another 15 years to regenerate.

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