Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Northern Kenya's arid and semi arid lands - long seen as lagging behind in the race for social and economic advancement - were among the biggest winners in this year's budget.

The country's least developed region was allocated more than Sh2 billion in what analysts described as the boldest step ever at dealing with development imbalance in the country since Independence.

Residents of this part of Kenya, The whole of NEP and some parts of Eastern and Rift Valley provinces have continued to suffer extreme deprivation despite its high potential to support economic activities such as livestock rearing and tourism.

Failure to tap these resources has led to high levels of poverty, dependency, deterioration of infrastructure and inadequate social services.Dr David Ndii, a Nairobi-based economist, says poverty, inequality as well as disparity in development remains top in the list of grievances of the area residents.

In last week's Budget Speech, Finance minister Amos Kimunya allocated more than Sh2.4 billion to the Ministry of Development of Northern Kenya & other Arid Lands. "We have come up with a number of interventions to improve the living conditions in arid and semi arid lands," said Mr Kimunya said.

A large fraction of this money is earmarked for the establishment of abattoirs and mini tanneries, rehabilitation and construction of roads as well as supply of clean water to the vast areas of Northern Kenya.

It will also be used to support school feeding programmes and rural electrification. To further facilitate growth of small and medium enterprises, Garissa, the provincial headquarters, is among the centres that were picked for a pilot project that seeks to establish a number of agri-processing plants countrywide.

Dr Wahome Gakuru, the director of National Economic and Social Council, said establishment of abattoirs and mini tanneries would enable residents improve their livelihoods through livestock keeping.

British charity, Oxfam, says the livestock sub-sector in the ASALs accounts for up to 90 per cent of employment and 95 per cent of household income, and contributes about five per cent of the GDP.

Analysts say success of any efforts to improve the quality of life in the region depends on infrastructure development. "You cannot run an economy at the rate of 10 per cent without tarmacked roads, reliable supply of electricity and access to telecommunication," said Mr Atul Shah of PKF.

In his speech, Mr Kimunya also announced plans to start construction of the Garissa - Garsen - Hola road and allocated Sh900 million for the project.Construction of the first phase of the road - the 136 km section between Isiolo and Merille River - started in April.

Spur growth

According to Vision 2030,the sunbaked Isiolo is slated to become a major tourism destination.
Several sites in the town have been earmarked for construction of tourist resort centres complete with casinos, international filming facilities and all the trappings of a haven fit for tourists.

Vision 2030, an economic blueprint that was launched last week, proposes the development of an irrigation system for both crops and livestock among the flagship projects that will spur growth in northern Kenya.

Water provision - a major problem in the region - also received a major boost after being allocated Sh200 million for rehabilitation of the Marsabit and Maralal water supply system.

Livestock marketing is another mandate of the ministry, which is one of the key pillars of development noted in the 2003 Economy Recovery Strategy. "Inequality if allowed to persist can affect growth negatively, threaten national unity and affect social stability," said Mr Kimunya.