Impacts of the Drought Crisis in Kenya

Drought Crisis in Kenya
In September 2021, the East African state of Kenya declared a drought emergency. Since September 2021, Kenya’s northern regions have noted “less than 30% of normal rainfall,” standing as “the worst short-rain season recorded in decades,” said the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. This lack of rainfall has led to the loss of livestock and the worsening of existing food and water shortages across the country. With predictions of a fourth consecutive poor rainy season that will exacerbate the impact of the drought crisis in Kenya, one cannot overstate the need for humanitarian aid and creative innovations.

Impact of the Drought Crisis in Kenya

  • Mass Livestock Deaths: Animals are central to the wealth and nutrition “of nomadic communities across the vast semi-desert plains of northern and eastern Kenya.” However, with the drought wiping out pastures, “wild animals are dying and herders are reporting losses of up to 70% of their livestock.” The existing cattle are either too frail to provide milk or too malnourished to sell. As of November 2021, the price of a cow declined “from about 40,000 Kenyan shillings ($357) to 5,000 KSH ($45).” Such drastic declines are severely hurting the livelihoods of farmers in the region.
  • Rising Food Insecurity: The drought crisis in Kenya and loss of income, which the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated, have caused the price of staple foods and water to become unaffordable. This has contributed to a deterioration in food security across the region. The number of people enduring crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in Kenya has risen from 1.4 million in 2021 to 3.1 million in 2022. The food and water shortages disproportionately affect the pastoral areas of Marsabit, Turkana, Baringo, Wajir, Mandera, Samburu and Isiolo — these counties account for half of the population facing crisis levels of food insecurity or higher. With up to four million Kenyans needing humanitarian food aid in the initial months of 2022, the drought crisis in Kenya is worrying.
  • Malnutrition: The drought crisis has also raised malnutrition levels in Kenya. By November 2021, “more than 465,000 children and 93,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women” endured acute malnutrition in Northern Kenya.
  • Civil Strife: Aside from prompting a humanitarian crisis, the drought is also “intensifying ethnic conflict.” Although “raiding has always been a part of pastoral culture,” the drought crisis in Kenya has intensified the animosity among rival nomadic groups as these groups are now fighting for limited resources.

SupPlant Brings Irrigation Tech to the Drought Crisis in Kenya

In early 2022, Israeli smart immigration startup, SupPlant, raised $27 million from several investors to support its platform. Some of these funds will go into the development of SupPlant’s new AI-based irrigation tech that would help “bring precision irrigation to Kenyan farmers and permanently alleviate the pressures of future droughts.”

This sensor-less technology “collects and analyzes hyperlocal climatic, plant and irrigation data” and then, provides “low-cost irrigation recommendations, weather forecasts and crop stress alerts” to farmers. Being that many areas are struggling to find or transport water, knowing exactly when to irrigate and how much water is necessary for the optimal crop yield will be beneficial to small-scale farmers.

SupPlant aims to equip a minimum of two million small-scale farmers in Africa and India with the technology at some point in 2022. In Kenya, SupPlant has already started working with about 500,000 small-scale maize farmers, with women making up the majority of these farmers.

Hope for the Future

The irreversibility of droughts has increased the importance of long-term sustainable development projects in helping affected communities cope with the devasting impacts of droughts. With more initiatives of the same kind, Kenya can recover.

Divine Adeniyi
Photo: Flickr