We are touched by the Kenyans for Kenyans initiative; a very commendable effort by fellow Kenyans. And while these efforts continue around the country, government and aid agencies need to appreciate why failed rains are triggering such recurrent crises, and they need to have both long-term and as short-term solutions in mind.
The malnutrition rates may be alarming, but they are not unique to 2011. Nor are the crowds of hungry, tired people that patiently gather each day around government buildings and distribution points. The adaptive strategies that had made life possible within the Turkana basin for so long have been gradually eroding for decades. The pastoralists of the greater Turkana basin had one strategy above all others for surviving drought; Mobility. As local water points dried up, they would move into Uganda, South Sudan or deeper into Kenya, to find water and grazing for their livestock. With livestock, pastoralists had food security. They could boost their diet with wild fruits and replenish lost livestock by raiding neighbouring tribes, and this way, survive the cycles of drought.
Today, with climate change, environmental degradation, water and pasture is being depleted many, many times faster than nature can replenish it, sharp increase in human population, proliferation of arms among all the neighboring communities coupled with change in lifestyle and limited mobility.
We cannot deny, Turkana certainly still needs development aid and still needs support. However, do we need aid and support for our development so that tomorrow we need even more, or so that tomorrow we need less? We need aid and support but we don’t want to need it forever; We want to have it so that We are enabled to stand on our own feet. I am not saying anything new. We want to be supported so that we can finally stand on our own.
The point is aid should not be one that creates dependence but one that ultimately leads to independence. Aid also has the disadvantage of eroding the dignity of the recipients; when you depend on somebody that person will dictate to you and will decide for you. Therefore, Turkana’s and the citizens of the greater Northern Kenya are no less human beings and deserve no less dignity than others have. Therefore they must struggle to reach a point where they are able to be masters and deciders of their own destiny and we wouldn’t achieve that by being dependent on aid and those who donate it. I am not talking about the date or the point at which aid should stop, but are more interested in the process and the understanding that we should be moving the direction of partnering with people to give us support in the path to getting out of that situation.
We would like to source for and increase opportunities for investments. Investments, because they unlock the energies, creativity, and innovation of people because they feel empowered and in control of their destiny. With investments there are no dictates like the ones we find in the relationship between the recipient and the donor agencies or political heavy weights, which erodes heavily on dignity. Moreover, nobody is locked out of the benefits; even an ordinary herdsman in a rural setting with increasing levels of investments can get good incomes from their animal products; that is why we prefer investment to aid.
And the situation will only start to change when our government shows the political will to seek for lasting solutions for the region. Dealing with the constant insecurity, and building infrastructure that will allow the region to open up and allow the region to grow. Ultimately, enabling interventions that reinforce social networks, support conflict resolution, strengthen advocacy work, encourage education and promote viable urban and rural livelihoods.