By Burhanudin Mohamud
World Environment Day is celebrated on 5th June every year. The world reflects on ways human beings can live harmoniously with their environment. This year’s theme: Ecosystem Restoration augurs well for Northern Kenya, a region that has been neglected and is set to bear the brunt of climate change given its unique challenges. The fact that this year’s celebrations will be held in Garissa paves a new front for the region.
Arid and Semi-Arid Lands(ASAL) counties have plenty of wind, sun and land. The sun which is the greatest resource is in abundance all year round. Counties in the region can do both small scale activities and large scale activities. Projects such as the Garissa solar power project and Lake Turkana wind power (LTWP) in Marsabit are large scale projects that will change both the economic status and productivity of the region. These projects aim at providing cheap electricity not only to the region but the whole country. With improved access to electricity all other infrastructures will be enhanced turning the region into a productive one.
This enables farmers from the region to grow food throughout the year. The story of Abdille, a resident of Habaswein town that was featured in the Daily Nation on 7th January 2017 paints a bright picture of the region. He ventured into farming about a decade ago without much success until he sunk a borehole on his farm last year, and installed a drip irrigation system. The borehole with a capacity of 15,000 litres has turned around his fortune as a horticulture farmer. Wajir county government through its integrated plan has launched the Wajir county climate change fund in the tune of 96.8 million shillings making it the first county to do so. The fact that the largest fresh water aquifer and the largest wind farm in the continent are about to be harnessed in Turkana and Marsabit counties respectively makes the region be at the front runners in this sector.
Counties in Arid and semi-arid areas have been marginalized since independence. Subsequent governments have ignored the economic potential of the area. The leadership of the area has also failed to come together to address the issues facing the region. The 1965 Sessional Paper No. 10 consigned most of the ‘unproductive’ arid and semi-arid regions into economic oblivion when it declared that government prioritizes development and investment in ‘high potential regions’, in a deceptive attempt to create political equality, equal opportunities and social justice. The consequences of such biased socio-economic policies and development blueprints formed the basis for the pursuit of devolution to address inequitable resource allocation. With devolution now firmly in place their destiny is now in their hands.
Grass root organizations are playing a huge role in helping change the face of the region in terms of environmental conservation. Young people are on the forefront in doing their part to improve the regions ecosystem.
As the United Nation launches its decade of restoration, Northern Kenya has every reason to be optimistic.
BURHANUDIN MOHAMUD is the Founder of Mazingira Alliance, a CBO that advocates for conservation in Mandera.