The 2nd ASALs Conference was officially opened at The Amboseli National park yesterday by the CS Devolution and ASAL Hon. Eugene Wamalwa flanked by The host Governor Joseph Lenku, Governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi) Samuel Tunai (Narok) Moses Lenolkulal( Samburu), Mutahi Kahiga ( Nyeri), National and County Leaders among other notable dignitaries.
The conference which brings together all the 29 ASAL counties seeks to consider their common challenges as well as the opportunities , potentials and workable ways of addressing them. These stem out of the 1st ASAL conference held in Malindi, Kilifi County that set the stage for consideration of key areas of interest including minerals exploitation , mechanized irrigation for food security, livestock farming, agriculture,value addition, tourism and protection of cultural heritage.
During the plenary discussions it became apparent that ASAL counties had historically been considered low potential regions with minimal investment capabilities and poor infrastructure too feeble to spur development. Participants dispelled this notion by noting that over the years ASALs have recorded a high potential for thriving industrialization and investment rivaling other robust regions of the country largely so with the gains brought by the devolved system of government and the National Government’s Big Four development agenda.
Low literacy levels and access to formal learning had for the longest time ailed ASAL regions but this had since changed as The Ministry of Education at both levels of government aggressively intervened and sensitized the pastoral communities leading to increased enrollment and retention rates.
The participants discussed at length the impact of water as a resource in spurring growth and development in ASAL areas. Towards this end , the PS ASALs Michael Powon challenged each individual to undertake water conservation initiatives adding that through its machinery, the National Government can manage 60% water management levels; the rest can only work if Kenyans embrace water harvesting techniques like building pans, water towers,reservoirs and dams during the rainy seasons. He said this together with environmental conservation will ensure sustainable communities all year round.
Malnutrition in children was also singled out as a common challenge in most ASAL
Counties. It was reported that this had been addressed sufficiently through collaborative efforts between the Ministries of Health and Education in most Counties. The Uji feeding Program in Kajiado County was cited as an example of such intervention.
Some participants pointed out that Nyeri and Kiambu had been grouped as ASAL regions yet geographically they were not Arid or Semi Arid regions. In a quick rejoinder, it was made clear that the definition was based on a set consideration such as the economic capabilities and limitations of such regions a defined by KALRO. It also became apparent to the participants that the number of ASAL Counties had risen to 32 from the 29 during the 1st Conference in Malindi based on this revised definition.
A concern w
as raised during plenary that the definition for ASAL Counties generalized most areas yet each had specific and unique challenges. The participants were informed that this generalization was accurate in view that most of the Counties were grappling with similar challenges overall. Towards this realization the participants requested for a review of cross cutting National and County policies to ascertain how they can be harmonized to meet a common goal in resolving the challenges faced by the ASAL Counties.
The Deputy Governor Kajiado County, Martin Moshisho fronted to the participants the need to set specific targets and timelines within which ASALs can be tasked to address and key issues such as water scarcity , food security which seemed like persistent and common in most of the ASAL Counties. The participants proposed to have a steering committee guided by the Ministry of Devolution and ASALs to act as a watchdog on enforcement of resolutions agreed upon by the conferences.
The conference enters its second day today.