Climate fund project transforming lives in Kenya

In the field: Kenya
Copyright: Flickr/C. Schubert, CCAFS

Speed read

  • The first phase is targeting 1.4 million people in five drought-prone counties
  • It uses climate fund for projects such as providing water for livestock
  • An expert says the project could be extended to communities vulnerable to flood

Send to a friend

The details you provide on this page will not be used to send unsolicited email, and will not be sold to a 3rd party. See privacy policy.

Last year by this time Mumina Halkano, 35, a mother of seven from Garbatula in Isiolo county, located in some 250 kilometres north of Nairobi, Kenya, was trudging the county’s scorched terrains looking for water and pasture for her livestock.

This year she is no longer doing so — thanks to a pilot project to support adaptation to climate change which is transforming lives in Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs).

“Before, we used to travel vast distances with our animals to look for water and pasture. We had little time left on our hands to do anything else,” she says.

Halkano, is one of more than 18,000 people in Isiolo county alone who have benefited from a pilot project, which is increasing the capacity of communities in Kenya’s ASALs to become resilient to climate change.

“The coordinators invited the community through their chosen representatives to identify areas where they felt they were most vulnerable to climate [change].”
Mumina Bonaya, Isiolo county, Kenya

Erratic weather patterns characterised by devastating floods and cycles of droughts have become rampant with increasing intensity in Kenya, and ASALs have been worst affected, says United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Climate fund provides solution

The project, which is implemented by Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), is an example of an investment called the global climate finance — a complex arrangement whereby donors help recipient countries to set up national climate change funds. The aim is to coordinate and align donor interests with national priorities.

The Isiolo project disburses climate fund to pastoral communities to enable them undertake initiatives that can help them become resilient to climate change. The outcomes include construction of water pans and structured grazing systems, which ensure communities have access to water and pasture throughout the year, and supply of satellite phones to boost communication.

The project could serve as a model on how the country’s new devolved systems could tap into the global climate finance, expected to top US$100 billion by 2020, according to UNEP estimates.

The project has partners such as the UK Department for International Development, has other partners such as the UK Met Office, Kenya Meteorological Services, Care International, Christian Aid and International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

Since its inception in 2012 the Isiolo county climate fund has disbursed 500,000 British pounds (about US$840,000) to five large communities called wards: Garbatula, Merti, Oldonyiro, Kinna and Sericho.

Due to its success, NDMA is rolling it out over the next four years and has added four neighbouring counties to the project. In April last year, the partners agreed to commit US$11 million to the project, according to Victor Orindi, NDMA climate change advisor.

The first of the project’s two phases is targeting at least 1.4 million people in the five counties, says the National Drought Management Authority. 

Rooted in traditional system

Mumina Bonaya, project coordinator and Isiolo county secretary for climate adaptation, says the project was modelled after a traditional resource management system that involves an elected committee of elders deciding which areas of the grazing land and water points can be accessed during the wet and dry seasons. This traditional system was disrupted by the provincial administration which imposed a rigid, state-sponsored resource management system that often brought the communities into conflict with each other and their neighbours.

Bonaya adds that the project recognised the importance of the community’s voice in the planning stages. It aimed to create a model whereby the climate resilience systems were built around the needs and aspirations of the communities. Thus the team adopted a bottom-up approach as opposed to the imperial top-bottom approach by the provincial administration.

“My children could not go to school either because today I would be in one place and the next day in another. My eldest son finished standard eight only last year — he is 25.”

Mumina Halkano, Isiolo county, Kenya

“The coordinators invited the community through their chosen representatives to identify areas where they felt they were most vulnerable to climate [change],” says Bonaya. “In designing the project the coordinators also recognised and took advantage of citizen participation to empower the people to own the project.”

Community representatives were vetted and trained in adaptation approaches by government technical, people in water, livestock and agriculture, explains Orindi, .

Tom Amek, a member of the Isiolo county’s adaptation planning committee, says measures to protect dry season grazing areas such as replacing water pans with lockable boreholes have been taken.

“It easy for grazers to storm the pans even if they were fenced but boreholes with lockable hydrants can be impregnable,” he says.

The project’s impacts

Bonaya says the project has had a huge social and economic impact on wards such as Garbatulla, Sericho, Kinna, Oldonyiro and Merti.

Amek adds that the project is helping communities to prevent their livestock from dying due to climate disasters.

“In 2006 when Isiolo and most parts of north-eastern Kenya experienced the worst drought in history, most communities lost between 60-80 per cent of their livestock to drought with the stocks being wiped out completely in some areas,” he says.

The supply of mobile phones is also making impacts. “Before the project passing a message from one community to another could take days. Few people had mobile phones — and with poor network coverage, even the few handsets that were there could not work, so people walked,” says Amek. “Now it would take just a phone call to pass a message. In this way the different climate committee members are able to act quickly on available information.”

At the household level, the project is having immense impact especially on women and children, he adds.

Halkano says before the project began, looking for pasture and water for the animals put a lot of strain on her physically.

“My children could not go to school either because today I would be in one place and the next day in another. My eldest son finished standard eight only last year — he is 25.”

She adds: “Besides my family suffered water-borne diseases frequently because we lacked [uncontaminated] water… it was always polluted because cattle urinated and defecated in it”.

However, with clean water now available Halkano not only keeps a healthy family and her children in school — she has enough time to run a small garden to supplement her family’s diet, which is mainly meat and milk.

Orindi tells SciDev.Net that county governments should take advantage of the fund to address climate needs on the ground.

“The successes in Isiolo, much as they are not perfect [shows] how far such interventions can go. And even though the project currently focuses on ASALs, it can be expanded to flood-prone areas which are also vulnerable to severe climatic conditions,” he says.

This article has been produced by Sub-Saharan Africa desk.