Thematic Green Messages

Author: Dr. Isaac Kalua

20th Feb 2021 at 09:48 am

Economic Opportunities

How Kenya Can Tap into The Water Sector for New Jobs


Author Dr Kalua writing on How Kenya Can Tap into The Water Sector for New Jobs
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Hon. Sicily Kariuki, the Cabinet Secretary for Water, Sanitation and Irrigation might just be the most important person in Kenya today. That's because water is the solution to our country's food and job problems. Against this backdrop, Water is the biggest scorecard that we should use to evaluate our leaders. Currently, they are failing in this vital task of ensuring sufficient, clean water for every single Kenyan.

Article 43 of Kenya's constitution guarantees every Kenyan the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities. Additionally, the United Nations Resolution 64/292 recognizes the human right to water and sanitation and further acknowledges that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.

It is therefore tragic that the rights of millions of Kenyans to water is being violated indiscriminately and with unprecedented impunity. In this day and age each of the country's known 12.2 million households should have access to piped water. It is unacceptable that nearly sixty years after independence, 32 percent of Kenyans allegedly still rely on unsafe surface water sources like ponds and rivers while half of the country still lacks access to basic sanitation services.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every person needs between 50 and 100 litres of water per day to meet basic needs. This means that Kenya's population of fifty million people need a bare minimum of 2.5 billion liters of water every single day.

The clear mandate for the Water Cabinet Secretary and the entire government apparatus both nationally and at County level, is to ensure that at least 2.5 billion liters of water will be available to Kenyans every single day. Where will this water come from and how can we use it more resourcefully?

For starters, we are already in a position of weakness because as reported, our annual renewable freshwater supply of 667 cubic meters per capita is below 1,000 cubic meters, which makes us a water scarce country. We must therefore be very strategic in our water sourcing and utilization. Such an approach needs appropriate funding. Thankfully, we are headed in the right direction.

In the current national budget, Shs. 42.6 billion was allocated to development of water and sewerage infrastructure; Shs. 10.9 billion for the management of water resources; Shs. 8.6 billion to support water storage and flood control; Shs. 10.9 billion to support conservation of forests and water towers; KShs. 850 million to cater for rehabilitation of wells, water pans and underground tanks in ASAL areas using local labour.

The last budget item contains three words that can revolutionize water availability in the country - using local labour. All the other budget items, together with implementation of the National Water Master Plan, must rely on local labour. This will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and ensure that local urban and rural communities take full ownership of sustainable water solutions.

Another water-related area that will create even more jobs is irrigation. In recent years, Kenya has increased the funds allocated for agriculture to 6 percent of the national budget. Part of these funds go towards irrigation. In the current 2020 – 2021 budget, Shs. 3.4 billion was set aside for expanded community household irrigation; Shs. 10.0 billion for irrigation and land reclamation; Shs. 1.4 billion to support small-scale irrigation and value addition; Shs. 1.3 billion for water harvesting and storage for irrigation.

Irrigation will ensure high yields and consequently guarantee food security in the country. It is telling that currently, less than 1 percent of medium and high yield land in Kenya is under irrigation.

Even as we revamp irrigation, we should also reinvigorate water distribution. Clearly, the country's piped water supply systems and piped sewerage systems need a major overhaul and modernization. Thankfully, the current budget allocated KShs. 42.6 billion to development of water and sewerage infrastructure. Kenyans should be updated regularly on how these funds are being utilized.

As was stipulated in the National Water Master Plan 2030, water sector development expenditure accounts for less than 1% of the national GDP. This needs to be stepped up substantially if we are to ensure regular, reliable water supply to every Kenyan.

Water is a finite resource that we must use with utmost care. It is for this reason that recycling wastewater must become the norm, not the exception. We must tap into recycled wastewater to feed irrigation so that more freshwater can be available for household usage. Indeed, Kenya's water must be turned into a lifeline for sustainable jobs, flourishing farms, vibrant industries and healthy bodies.

~ Think Green, Act Green!

by Dr. Isaac Kalua, the founder and chairperson, Green Africa Foundation ~ 20th February, 2021.

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Dr. Isaac Kalua

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