World Vision President Reports on Kenya Drought

Focused attention on the needs of Kenya’s poorest communities could eliminate the need for emergency food relief, World Vision International’s president said last Wednesday.

Dean Hirsch, the International President of World Vision, called on all individuals, groups and organizations to work together with the Government of Kenya for the sake of the people in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL).

During a visit to see World Vision staff providing emergency feeding in a location where the population is facing malnutrition due to the drought, Hirsh said, “World Vision is pleased to have been able to help in such a significant food response for some of the communities with whom we have been working for so long.

“But droughts should no longer be considered an emergency to be met with relief feeding every time," he added.

“Seven out of 10 rainy seasons now fail to provide enough water for rain-fed agriculture in four-fifths of Kenya’s land. That’s not a crisis any more – it’s predictable. It can be dealt with.”

In the region of Turkana alone, World Vision Kenya, in partnership with the World Food Program and the Government of Kenya, has supplied more than 118,000 tons of food, worth almost 50 million US dollars, since 2000.

Referring to World Vision development schemes at Morulem and Lokubae, Hirsh said irrigation projects showed great promise for delivering large numbers of people from the need for regular emergency feeding.

“So much of your land is defined as arid or semi-arid, yet some of your biggest permanent rivers run through these areas,” the WVI President said. “That is a huge potential for agriculture that doesn’t depend on the rain, even before we consider the possibilities of spring protection, use of seasonal rivers and tapping underground water.”

Hirsh also said that farmers should be helped to establish farmer associations to enable them to work together to find the best techniques for local food production, and to put them into practice. Such associations provide useful venues for agricultural extension workers to explain the latest research and methods to farming communities.

Currently half of Kenya’s livestock is raised in the arid lands, he noted, urging policy changes to stimulate and encourage the market in meat.

Other initiatives that will transform life for the people in the arid and semi-arid lands include promotion of micro-finance initiatives, and greater emphasis on the preservation of the environment.