Cablegate: Tapping Water in Kenya's Arid North Eastern

DE RUEHNR #1854/01 2130658
P 310658Z JUL 08






E.O.12958: N /A
SUBJECT: Tapping Water in Kenya's Arid North Eastern
Province, Part Two

Reference: Nairobi 1851


1. In Kenya's arid North Eastern Province, livelihoods have
centered on pastoralism (the practice of herding livestock)
for hundreds of years. However, decades of gradual
sedentarization (a shift from nomadism to permanent
settlement) have created new dependencies and a more
fragile ecosystem. Past development efforts have
accelerated sedentarization and created conditions that
have allowed for large increases in the number of livestock
by increasing the number of fixed water points available
for human and livestock consumption. This has compounded
the ecosystem's fragility and has become a periodic source
of violent conflict.

2. While the Government of Kenya (GOK), the NGO community,
and other donors realize that water is an important issue
for the future of North Eastern Province, many
interventions have focused on either short-term emergency
response or the "more is better" philosophy, which only
deepens the region's long-term problems. Although the GOK
has recently undertaken comprehensive water sector reforms,
the government is still in the process of formulating a
comprehensive water development plan for Kenya's arid and
semi-arid lands (ASALs). At present, there are many
independent organizations on the ground that intervene in
the water sector. Implementation of Combined Joint Task
Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) well-drilling activities
has highlighted several development challenges. These
challenges include the need for better stakeholder
consultation and pre-drilling consideration of the full
spectrum of environmental, hydrological, social, and
cultural factors. In light of the fragility of the ASALs
ecosystems, CJTF-HOA, its U.S. mission partners, and the
GOK are collectively seeking ways to proactively identify a
more sustainable and strategic way forward. End Summary.

3. This is the second of two cables describing the
challenges of development in Kenya's North Eastern Province
and other ASALs, particularly in terms of water
development, in which the CJTF-HOA is providing assistance.

Years of Sedentarization
Have Taken Their Toll

4. Reftel described some of the factors leading to the
gradual permanent or semi-permanent settlement of a large
proportion of the North Eastern Province's traditionally
pastoral society. While there are still a significant
number of pastoralists who make a living (and drive the
area's economy) by raising livestock according to
traditional methods and migration routes, decades of
overgrazing and overpopulation have taken their toll on the
fragile arid landscape.

5. Limited relief and development efforts have
traditionally focused on emergency relief or support for
the livestock industry, and both activities often involve
the development of new water sources. While people and
livestock need clean sources of water, new water points
meant to extend the reach of grazing areas also attract new
permanent settlements. When this happens, grazing areas
can easily be denuded of critical perennial grasses by
overgrazing of newly settled pastoralists' livestock. The
primary source of violent conflict among the various ethnic
Somali clans (the vast majority of the region's
inhabitants) is over water and grazing land. Not
surprisingly, peacebuilding programs are also a focus of
donor assistance in the region.

NAIROBI 00001854 002 OF 004

CJTF-HOA Steps Into A Complex Situation

6. More and more organizations are beginning to pay
attention to the various development needs of North Eastern
Province. In addition to the various ministries from the
GOK, non-governmental organizations, international
organizations, the World Bank, and other donors are on the
ground providing different types of assistance. Emergency
food relief, water and livestock development, and new
infrastructure are just a few of these projects. In
addition, there are several agencies under the Ministry of
Water alone that are in the water development business.

7. One of the GOK actors is the Ministry of Defense (KDOD),
which is increasingly working in conjunction with the
Ministry of Water to drill new boreholes. CJTF-HOA has
provided support to KDOD in the form of U.S. Navy
Construction Battalions (Seabees) and U.S. Geologic Survey
(USGS) scientists to help determine what sites would have
the best chance of producing water. Currently, CJTF-HOA's
well drilling activities are confined to the Garissa
District in North Eastern Province, but KDOD would like
them to expand their activities across northern Kenya.

More is Not Necessarily Better

8. Like many of the development activities in North Eastern
Province, however, the Ministry of Water and KDOD view
water development as short-term humanitarian emergency
assistance. We have been told repeatedly by Ministry of
Water and KDOD officials that environmental impact
assessments " required by law" are not needed for water
projects in the North Eastern Province because the region
is in a "state of emergency." (Note: Boreholes in arid
areas have a more intense impact on the environment than in
other areas, and have a tendency to exacerbate emergencies
if poorly managed. This makes the need for rational
environmental assessments even more acute. End Note.)

9. Without an understanding of the adverse consequences of
borehole proliferation, both the Ministry of Water and KDOD
appear to have a "more is better" philosophy. For example,
rumor has it that a new road to Marsabit (in upper Eastern
Province) will be constructed by the Chinese with boreholes
every 10 kilometers. Failing to make the connection that
new boreholes have caused many a violent conflict in
northern Kenya and draws people across borders, KDOD has
incorporated water development into its "securitization"
plan, and would like to dig new boreholes all across
Kenya's arid north, including border towns with Somalia.
The KDOD has also cited humanitarian concerns and the need
to provide logistical support to Kenyan security forces as
reasons to drill additional boreholes in this region.

10. While CJTF-HOA pursues its regional security capacity
building and engagement initiatives through humanitarian
and other activities, we will continue to assist them in
refining their support by taking a more holistic and
strategic approach. CJTF-HOA, in cooperation with its U.S.
mission partners, can then help guide their Kenyan
counterparts in developing a sounder approach to water
development and management in these ecologically sensitive
areas. Some of the organizations involved in water
development understand the issues, but it is far from clear
that this understanding permeates the planning process.

Better Understanding,
Stronger Oversight Needed

NAIROBI 00001854 003 OF 004

11. Development activities in North Eastern Province are
ostensibly coordinated and approved at the district level
by the District Steering Group (DSG), an interagency
meeting chaired by the World Bank-funded Arid Lands
Resource Management Project, which was recently
subordinated to the newly-formed Ministry of State for the
Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands
(reftel). The meetings are attended by district-level
ministry representatives, religious leaders, youth, women,
nongovernmental organizations and other civil society

12. In Garissa, the DSG has become a good example of the
coordination and planning process should look like. The
Garissa DSG, for example, recently refused the request of a
Member of Parliament to dig a new borehole in his
constituency for political reasons. This type of behavior
is rare in the Kenyan bureaucracy, and it deserves
encouragement. The new Arid Lands Ministry is best
positioned to play a watchdog role in preventing poorly-
conceived development, but to do so effectively will
require an aggressive interpretation of its mandate and an
attitudinal shift by other organizations in the water
development business. This may prove to be a significant
challenge for a newly-established ministry with a more
limited budget than Water and other ministries.

13. Digging a borehole (or constructing a pan, i.e.,
stockpond, or dam) is only one step in establishing a water
management project. In order for a project to be
successful and sustainable, there must be a community that
wants and is willing to manage the new resource. There
must also be an understanding of how the new resource will
impact the surrounding ecosystem and existing grazing
patterns. At present, water development projects
envisioned by Ministry of Water and KDOD reflect only a
nascent understanding of these issues. For example, the
KDOD and the Ministry of Water often overlook the advice of
the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), which
is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all
development projects adhere to environmental
considerations. There is currently no overarching mechanism
in place to ensure sound placement and management of new
water sources.

Next Steps

14. Embassy Science Fellow Dr. Jayne Belnap, a senior
scientist at the U.S. Geologic Survey, has had years of
experience grappling with arid lands development issues and
recently traveled to the North Eastern Province to consult
with CJTF-HOA, government officials, and community members
and help chart a way forward. As a result, we have created
some draft guidelines for CJTF-HOA's future water
development activities. We will also be encouraging the
Garissa DSG to strengthen its oversight of water
development projects by using CJTF-HOA and KDOD as pilots.

15. The new Arid Lands Ministry is working on a strategic
development plan for Kenya's arid areas. We will urge the
Ministry's leadership to include water management as a key
component of this new strategy. However, we do know that
the new minister and his technical staff, inherited from
the World Bank-funded Arid Lands Resource Management
Project (reftel), understand the special considerations
needed for dry lands development, and we will support at
every opportunity their efforts to exercise oversight over
water development.

16. We will also continue to encourage other ministries to
incorporate an understanding of dry lands development into
their planning. Initial discussions with KDOD have been

NAIROBI 00001854 004 OF 004

fruitful in this regard. In the ASALs, USAID currently
supports projects including water and sanitation
improvement (Marsabit district), the North Eastern Pastoral
Development Program, and the Regional Enhanced Livelihoods
program in pastoral areas. Managers of these USAID programs
will be working with the Arid Lands Ministry on organizing
stakeholder consultations and provide training on pastoral
areas development. Ultimately, we hope these efforts will
contribute to sounder planning for the benefit of the long-
marginalized population of Kenya's ASALs.

© Scoop Media

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