A climate change action plan for Kenya

Dry Riverbed in Kenya, by Shever

Dry Riverbed in Kenya, by Shever at Flickr

Four-fifths of Kenya is made up of arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), posing many challenges in the face of climate change which is already hindering the development of the country. In these areas, most people’s livelihoods and economic activities are reliant on climate-sensitive natural resources . The 2010-2011 Horn of Africa crisis demonstrated Kenya’s vulnerability to climate change and variability . But Kenya is not the only country facing the challenge of arid regions. In Latin America, as in Africa and Asia, between 15% and 25% of people live in semi-arid areas, mostly in small isolated rural communities. These communities are often the most severely affected by climate change, and are least equipped to cope with it. Under these conditions, south-south learning comes across as a potential means of informing climate change plans targeted at such arid regions.

In 2011 the Kenyan Government took on the challenge of developing its five-year National Climate Change Action Plan, the first of its kind. During that process in 2012 a Learning Alliance began as part of the ELLA Programme, a UK Aid funded south-south knowledge initiative that mixes research, exchange and learning to inspire evidence-based policies and practices. Together with REDEH, a Human Development Network in Brasil, and CentroClima, a unit that works on climate change research at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Practical Action Consulting Latin America managed a Learning Alliance on Climate Change Adaptation in Arid and Semi-Arid Regions, in which Kenyans and peers from Latin America, Africa and Asia, discussed how Latin American countries are addressing the challenges of climate change adaptation. The discussions covered issues related to infrastructure, water resource management, food security, subsistence agriculture, biodiversity and migration. To facilitate the discussion among participants, case studies from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru were shared.

Victor Orindi was one of the members of the programme. At that time he worked as a Climate Change Advisor in the ASAL Secretariat of the Ministry of State for the Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands. Victor is a very active official, involved in many initiatives for advancing climate change adaptation both in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa . He travelled to Brazil on the ELLA study tour organised as part of the Learning Alliance. Together with Halima Nenkari, Assistant Director of Livestock Production within the Ministry of Livestock Development in Kenya, and members from other African countries, Victor visited a programme promoting climate change adaptation strategies with communities living in Bahia, in North East Brazil. In Pintadas, they saw coping strategies for emergencies, innovative credit policies, Bahian farmers cooperatives, new water security technologies, and other means of promoting resilience in ASALs. “We saw how we can better use existing resources as useful products for the livestock sector. On one of the farming areas we visited in Brazil, we saw a farmer growing cactus… in Kenya we find it everywhere… And they used it for example for feeding livestock (…) We were encouraged to think more broadly”, Victor recounted in a recent interview. Victor was very impressed by these and other Community-Based Adaptation (CBA) practices.

Nairobi market

Market in Nairobi by Ninara at Flickr

More than 30 Kenyans were involved in the ELLA online and offline learning programme during a four-month dialogue. Latin American strategies for community based adaptation were discussed with fifteen participants from the government, private sector, academia, the donor community and civil society met at the Ministry of Environment. Many of the individuals were involved in the development and writing of the National Climate Change Action Plan. Chief among them was Stephen King’uyu, from the Climate Change Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment, one of the lead officials supervising the Plan.

In this way, the Kenya National Climate Change Action Plan was in part informed by the discussions from the ELLA Programme . “I can say that some of the things that helped us in framing or in getting the plan together were the experiences we learned from a number of places, the Brazil visit included…”, said Victor, who was part of the team that prepared the National Action Plan. After this, Victor also embarked on a project to prepare the National Adaptation Plan, which was finished in November 2015: “[The south-south sharing] provided me with different ideas, from both the online dialogue and from the [ELLA sponsored]national-level dialogue where we connected with different partners (…) and they all enriched the process [of development of the plan]”.

One of the main things the plan gathered from the Latin American experience was about mainstreaming climate change at the highest level which not only facilitates coherence between different sectors but also budgetary allocation. “The importance of coordination across government and across different levels is one of the things we learned during the ELLA Programme. Each sector has its roles and priorities reflected in the national action plan. This gives them the ease of implementation, with the lead agency, the Ministry of the Environment, providing support and general coordination (…) it means they can also get a budget from respective ministries or departments”. The National Climate Change Action Plan states that Kenya takes climate change and its impacts seriously, considering it as a cross-cutting issue that will be mainstreamed in the planning process both at the national and county levels and in all the sectors of the economy .

This planning process shows that south-south exchange can contribute to change when there are windows of opportunity, and where programmes work with committed, capable individuals able to deploy the knowledge they picked up when the opportunity develops.

In the ELLA programme UK Aid bet on the benefits of south-south learning. This story is just one case among the many registered by the programme. Knowledge exchange between regions of the ´global south’ can work, even where countries are very different, when sufficient attention is paid to identifying and understanding context. In this case, knowledge uptake happened because Victor and other Kenyans used Latin American lessons wisely to inform national planning in their country.

This article has been written by Alicia Quezada, Manager of Practical Action Consulting Latin America, and is based on an interview with Victor Orindi (18 March 2016) and programme reports, including a report on the ELLA Learning Alliance on Climate Change Adaptation in Arid and Semi-Arid Regions “Adaptation in Semi-Arid and Arid Lands: Key Issues and Responses”, the ELLA Guide “Improving small farmers’ adaptive capacity in semi-arid regions” and the ELLA Spotlight “Spotlight on Arguments: Adaptation in Semi-Arid Regions”.
You can contact Mark Lewis if you want to know more about the ELLA Programme and Alicia Quezada if you want to engage with Practical Action Consulting Latin America.
CC This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
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