On 22nd of February, Nile Day was commemorated in some African states. Various activities organised by environmental civil society groups advocating for the protection of natural resources – as part of the Nile Basin theme “Our Shared River – Source of Energy, Food and Water for All”.
In Kenya, Nile Day happened at a critical moment when the country is going through a long devastating drought causing daily casualties. The situation in the arid and semi-arid zones of the country is so perilous that the drought has recently been declared a national disaster by President Kenyatta.
While the number of affected populations is almost reaching 3 million, the government released early this week 71.5 million dollars to help the 23 most affected counties. In these areas populated mainly by farmers and pastoralists, the promised aid is more than an emergency because desperate farmers are no longer hesitating to share their own meals with livestock.
As for women, the quest for firewood and drinking water has become a challenge as rivers and streams have dried up. For example, residents of Marsabit said they are obliged to walk more than 10 km in search of water.
Once again, the difficult period for Kenya and the rest of other Eastern African states illustrates the high extent of climate impacts in a region where more than 60% of population survive on farming and pastoralism. The harsh drought currently experienced has considerably affected rainfall from October to December 2016 and livestock’s health to the point that the entire region is now facing increased food insecurity, coupled with a deterioration of livestock’s productivity and additional social and security repercussions, including a growing number of violent conflicts and increased rape cases.
The forty participants – mainly students, activists, artists and community leaders – who took part in the debates organized by 350Africa and AYICC at the Department of Climate Change, Kenya Meteorological Department to mark Nile Day reflected on measures to be taken at different levels to emerge from the drought challenge and proactively mitigate the climate repetitive impacts. They recommended the government pursue its efforts towards significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and called for the renegotiation of the Nile River Sharing Treaty so that rural Kenyan populations can have direct and equitable access to resources In water. “What would be the advantage of being part of the Nile Basin if our people can not enjoy its resources and only one country retains the monopoly on the Nile?” Asked a student from Kenyatta University.