Potential of Dryland Farming in Kenya and Environmental Implications
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With the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) accounting for more than 70%of Kenya's total land area, and supporting an increasing population of both humans and animals, investment in water resources development will be a critical research and policy agenda for national development. From 1998 to date, devastating droughts have been persistent in Kenya to the level of being declared national disasters. Drought events translate into severe soil moisture deficits, far below crop and pasture water requirements. Often this is followed by crop failure and hence hunger, famine, livestock deaths and general human suffering. By way of intervention, government has often responded by focusing on short term measures like appealing for food aid, which in essence is a reminder of urgent policy re-orientation that would make ASAL areas self-sufficient when it comes to guaranteeing people's basic needs like food. A look at previous drought incidences in Kenya seems to suggest that although such climatic phenomenon are stochastic, drought should be expected every after about 4 years (Table 5.1). As such planning for lasting solutions should be possible instead of addressing symptoms on a routine basis .. With more than 20 devastating drought events already experienced, yet no viable counter-strategy to date, Kenya seems to either lack the relevant policy framework and or necessary political will to implement workable solutions. This too calls for research into possible causes of inaction to inform future decision-making. Besides scarcity of water, the ASALS also exhibit inherent characteristics that make them fragile ecosystems deserving careful management options in order to maximise on their agricultural potential (Table 5.2). Further, Barron and Rockstrom (2003) observed that contrary to conventional thinking, the dry lands are not absolutely deficit of water especially when it rains, but rather suffer from poor rainfall distribution and poor land and water management. As such, ASALdevelopment is hinged upon an integrated approach that focuses on its inherent limitations.