Kenya continues to register steady growth against economic and social indicators. However, Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) continue to have the lowest development indicators in Kenya, with an estimated 74 to 97 per cent of the population living below the absolute poverty line. The ASALS, which make up 89 per cent of the country’s land mass and constitute 18 of the 20 poorest counties in Kenya, have long been adversely impacted by marginalization, drought emergencies, and endemic poverty. For this reason, Kenya’s Vision 2030 has identified ASAL development as a top priority for Kenya’s overall development, and the national government has developed policies and strategies to provide guidance on challenges facing the ASAL region.
As USAID Kenya’s lead learning partner in the Partnership for Resilience and Economic Growth (PREG), Africa Lead participated in the inaugural ASAL Conference held in Kilifi County from 5 – 8 September, 2018. The conference, whose objective was to create a platform for prioritization and realigning of the ASALs development agenda with the national development priorities for accelerated social, economic and cultural development, had more than 700 delegates representing 29 ASAL counties in attendance. Others in attendance included representatives from the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), the Council of Governors, USAID, and the European Commission.
“Problems of poverty, underdevelopment, and natural disasters are not easy to solve. But solved they must be, and as Kenya makes progress it is important that no one is left behind… There is a need to work together and across county lines,” said US Ambassador Robert Godec during the opening session of the conference.
Over the length of the conference, delegates took stock of opportunities and challenges in the development of the ASALs, developed a roadmap for meeting emerging ASALs developmental needs, and discussed how to align ASAL development plans to Kenya’s Vision 2030 and President Kenyatta’s “Big 4” development agenda. In the final sessions of the conference, delegates also created a mechanism to track the implementation of outcomes arising from the conference.