The government has set aside Sh15 billion for irrigation in the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs). Deputy President William Ruto stated that the initiative will ensure that food is provided to the country's expanding population.
He further pointed out that one
million acres of land which will be used in this irrigation purposes has been set aside. "ASALs constitute 75 percent of Kenya's landmass. Twenty percent of our population resides in those lands. Sixty percent of the national livestock and wildlife population is raised there. Clearly, therefore, pastoralists' interests are substantial in every conceivable way," the deputy President stated.
He says half the acreage will be dedicated to food production, a quarter of the million acres will be used for livestock production and the remaining horticulture. He also emphasised the need to develop policies that will involve both government and communities in the initiative.
"It is important to develop and implement responsive and effective policies while instituting strong linkages between the communities and government at both levels in order to eliminate pastoralist vulnerabilities," he stated. He stated that the Jubilee government has undertaken to institute measures to comprehensively address pastoralists' concerns in the socioeconomic and political context.
He was speaking during a meeting of the pastoralists' parliamentary group in Mombasa where he expressed the government's commitment to unlock the full potential of the Arid and Semi Arid Lands.
He encouraged leaders in ASAL areas to look at the future with optimism. "Our Government has made and will continue to recognise the possibilities and opportunities available to pastoralist. These opportunities are not new; indeed they have been there since the founding of our Republic," he said.
"The only challenge was the inflexible mindset of post-colonial leadership that viewed economic potential purely in terms of arable farming, effectively marginalising a significant source of the GDP," he stated.
He indicated that the government will eliminate vulnerabilities associated with marginalisation and unlock the full potential of the ASAL areas.
"With over 70 members of the National Assembly, 17 Senators, including the Majority Leaders of the Senate and National Assembly as well as the Speaker of Senate, it is very clear that the pastoralist agenda could not have a better platform in government," he stated.
"Development is impossible without security for communities and enterprises. The government is embarking on strengthening border security to prevent cross-border crime, as well as boosting internal security through appropriate human and material enhancements," he said.
According to Ruto, livestock policy is scheduled for transformation with such far reaching proposals as the establishment of a national irrigation scheme, a national livestock insurance scheme including a livestock evaluation system to ease pastoralists' access to credit.