Kenya: Making the case - A national drought contingency fund for Kenya


Three and a half million people are currently suffering one of the worst drought-related crises in Kenya's history. This complex livelihood crisis, compounded by the immediate stress factors of water and food scarcity, has already led to a sharp deterioration in people's health and nutrition with massive livestock losses for pastoralists.

A national drought contingency fund should be established in Kenya to ensure a capacity for timely, appropriate, and adequate response aimed at mitigating the impact of the country's recurrent drought-related crises. The fund should be a complementary tool that supports existing disaster management mechanisms. Even though recurrent drought may be an inevitable fact of life in Kenya, the human suffering it causes is not.

The critical failure in Kenya's drought management system is its slow response. A technically strong Early Warning System (EWS) has been developed, but early alerts do not lead to early action. It is widely agreed that a lack of rapidly deployable resources is the primary factor preventing a timely response.

Experts have determined that a central fund of some $50m should be established, financed by international donors and the Government of Kenya. This would support early interventions to prevent recurrent drought from escalating into full-blown humanitarian crises. The Government of Kenya has been party to these debates and it too has acknowledged the need for a drought contingency fund. Leading donors have also supported the concept, though as yet the fund remains only a proposal.

A fund of this nature should not be seen as an alternative to tackling the chronic under-development of Kenya's arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), where drought is a persistent problem. Rather it should be part of an allinclusive government strategy, which comprehensively addresses the problems faced by the people living in these areas. Such a strategy should include legislation to endorse the current National Policy for the Sustainable Development of the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands of Kenya. (1)

This paper begins by placing the call for a national drought contingency fund in the context of under-development in the ASALs and the marginalisation of their people. The next section argues the case for such a fund, highlighting how its absence has contributed to the current humanitarian crisis, and examines the mitigation efforts that a fund of this nature could have supported. It also examines the persistent problems of under-funding for drought-related crises in Kenya. The last section questions how the fund would function in practice, and looks at resourcing, management and operation, and its priority uses.

Oxfam is calling for:

The establishment of a national drought contingency fund in Kenya before the end of 2006, to ensure that it is operational before the next drought-related crisis emerges.

This will require:

  • Renewed effort from the Government of Kenya to produce a proposal and to push it through the political system during the current national emergency;

  • Active support from the international donor community for the establishment and financing of the national drought contingency fund; and

  • Collective agreement between the Government of Kenya and international donors on effective mechanisms for the disbursal and accountability of such funds.


(1) For further information see, "Delivering the agenda: Addressing chronic under-development in Kenya's arid lands", Oxfam International, May 2006.

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