April 20, 2021
A woman stands with her baby in Turkana County in March 2017. The status of drought in Kenya is little improved today after locusts, pandemic, and La Nina have all contributed to the status of the prolonged drought crisis. “18-month-old James and his mother Margaret, pictured with a supply of sachets of Plumpy Nut, a Ready to Use Therapeutic Food used to treat acute maluntrition, Turkana County, northern Kenya, 28 March 2017” by DFID – UK Department for International Development is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The GERD crisis in Ethiopia draws international attention as the countries immediately impacted, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan near potential armed conflict as Ethiopia move forward with insistence despite deadlocked negotiations. The rest of Africa looks on in growing anxiety as the conflict between the Nilot nations trickles down to their nations. Of these, Kenya is conflicted, as the nation experiences a continued semi-arid drought that has sparked famine across its counties, most notably in Turkana.
Republic Underground interview Michael Ochieng Nyawino, Country Lead Consultant: COP26 Global Youth Letter on Young People, Cultural Relations and Climate Actions & Executive Director of COHECF KENYA (NGO), to gain perspective.
“The dispute over the GERD is part of a long-standing feud between Egypt and Sudan—the downstream states—on the one hand, and Ethiopia and the upstream riparians on the other over access to the Nile’s waters, which are considered a lifeline for millions of people living in Egypt and Sudan,” explained Nyawino, giving the basic context of the dispute in the immediately affected region.
This independent YouTube channel reported the status of donated food dependents as the Northern Kenya drought caused by La Nina weather patterns continues to the present.
“Despite the intense disagreements, though, Ethiopia continues to move forward with the dam, arguing that the hydroelectric project will significantly improve livelihoods in the region more broadly.”
He then gave the Kenyan perspective on the crisis.
“Kenya being a country that is part of the source of River Nile through Lake Victoria will see a drop in the volume of water within the Lake thereby making it recede inwards. In effect, this will mean fishermen will have to go deeper into the lake to get more fish. In addition, the rivers flowing into the river Nile will be affected in that more and more water will have to flow into the lake to occupy the space created by the water that will be pumped into the GERD dam,” said Nyawino.
Video courtesy of David Noah, CBO founder of FirmRock Children’s Helper Kenya, which was founded in 2014 to comabt the continued impact of the drought crisis. This video was filmed in 2019. In Mwingi Prefecture, the constant battle for water leads communities to dig 25 feet or deeper to reach a minimum amount of water. Rural Kenya stands to be gravely affected by the dispute over the Nile waters that feed Lake Victoria, the source of the Kenyan governmental solution to the nation’s constant receding into the desert.
Despite the water anxiety of the remote Kenyan villages, Nyawino noted that debates for using Lake Victoria’s waters for the improvement of life in regions such as Mwingi Prefecture have been met with a lack of resources and a lack of political goodwill or concern.
“Kenyans have also been having debates about using Lake Victoria waters to irrigate drier parts of the country to help improve food security but this has not been taken a notch higher maybe due to resources required/lack of political goodwill or just I don’t care attitude,” said Nyawino.
Despite the stale progress on Lake Victoria disputes at home, Nyawino was confident that Kenya, as an international moderator, may prove yet to be a voice in the deadlocked talks over the GERD.
A constant issue of the drought crisis in recent years, Kenya’s rain seasons result in floods and mudslides in some areas which then give way to drought. At the same time, other regions persist in drought conditions. NTV reports a statement by Kenya’s Red Cross which highlights this scenario as of April 16.
“Kenya has been taking part in peace negotiations in the horn of Africa region and can still use its position in the security council to negotiate the dispute,” said Nyawino.
“What should not be forgotten here is that Kenya is also an interested party in the sense that they too are interested in using the waters of Lake Victoria which is the source of the River Nile.”