B. Wiklund/UNEP/Topham

Maurice Odera, Tunza Youth Advisor for Africa,reports on the drought
in Kenya and the efforts to alleviate associated human suffering.


n the past five months or so, Kenya has been caught up in a severe drought, the worst in its history. And I can't help wondering whether it's due to climate change. Is global warming finally beginning to take its toll? Increasingly irregular weather patterns are combining with rapid deforestation - for products ranging from charcoal to the pencil on your desk - to bring about desertification.

Droughts are a natural phenomenon in Eastern Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa, but their frequency and effects are on the rise. In the 1983-1984 season, drought affected 200,000 people. Now, in the 2005-2006 season, it has affected 3.5 million so far. The next one is expected in 2009 - only three years away. Given Kenya's current population growth, the increased frequency means the number of those affected will rise significantly. If drastic measures are not taken, the number of victims may double.

But there are things we could do to focus on the careful management of available resources. Rainwater harvesting during the wet season would mean water could be stored instead of going to waste, helping agriculture - on which Kenya's economy depends - to be less rain dependent and more irrigation dependent, giving us a measure of control over vital food production. During dry periods, hosepipe bans could prevent the misuse of water. And tree-planting campaigns could help reverse desertification.


The current drought is costly: we have spent $500 million to combat it, in a country where 60 per cent of the population still lives below the poverty line. The World Food Programme needs another $250 million to ensure that no more Kenyans die of hunger, but so far it only has $25 million. Kenya has also received $5 million from corporations and other well-wishers. Perhaps we could invest some of this in infrastructure to minimize the effects of future droughts.

Though this is a time of great challenge, I believe that every problem has a solution. If we work together, I am sure we can come up with even more answers. As young people with the future in our hands, we must be determined not to be part of the problem, but part of the solution.

Every drop counts!

  • Harvest rainwater in a bowl and use it.
  • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or washing up.
  • Wash vegetables and fruit in a basin, then use the water for plants.
  • Fix leaky taps - inside and out.
  • Use the minimal amount of water in the bath - or have a shower.
  • Install a drip irrigation system in the garden.
  • Start a compost heap and use it to help retain soil moisture.
  • Choose native plants that require less water and provide a habitat for wildlife.
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