In a country where subsequent governments alienate whole provinces for over 4 decades and still get away with it, it’s good that someone came up with the idea of a Ministry for Northern Kenya and other Arid Areas. These are arguably the most neglected in the country and the creation of a ministry for them at least shows that the leadership appreciates the need for some speedy reversal of this unfortunate situation.
But I don’t believe a government ministry is what the doctor ordered for Northern Kenya and other arid areas. If we look at it in terms of ministries then they should all go and camp there. For one a lot of Education is required to empower the locals to actively participate in the development of their own. There’s need for water technology and water harvesting for domestic and irrigation purposes, livestock management through building of abattoirs, introduction of farming of fruits, vegetables, medicinal and horticultural crops – there’s just too much. Maybe Najib Balala’s next challenge should be to have more tourists there in future if at all there are any now. And who knows the areas could produce some athletes and soccer stars if someone looked hard enough?
In short arid areas, as do many others in the country, have great potential and need special attention from nearly all the current ministries except the likes of Nairobi Metropolitan Development and East African Community among others. In any case, the current ministries are just a political arrangement that will mostly operate on a national level.
In my view a development body would fit the bill better. Like the Lake Basin Development Authority or Coast Development Authority. The authority can be funded by development partners without being bogged down by backward government bureaucracy and long procurement procedures. Of course the state also has a major role to play in additional funding and generally enabling the smooth running of the authority by ensuring security and providing incentives such as tax exemption on equipment. The authority should have a clear mandate and be able to approach and receive special attention from all ministers in government including the Prime Minister who promised a Livestock Insurance Policy during his campaigns.
This is not a call for Majimbo but these areas have a lot of sharp minds and by all means they should be left to manage such a body should it be formed. They’re very familiar with their problems and they know their terrain well. And since they grew up there, they’ll spend more time working other than whining about the tough climatic conditions.