The government has increased the number of Arid and Semi-Arid areas (ASAL) from the current 23 to 29 to enable more counties benefit from the ASAL programs.
The increase follows a recommendation by the National Drought Management Authority (NMDA) that more counties be brought in the bracket of counties covered by the newly created State Department of Arid and Semi-Arid lands.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamwala said the ASAL counties required proper planning for acceleration of development in such areas as is the case with the rest of the country adding that the move will help spur investments that will address and connect to a potential 100 million consumers from neighboring countries and those at the horn of Africa.
He further said that ASAL counties had the potential of 24 million acres for livestock production and a further 9 million acres for crop production under irrigation which he added if well managed could become the next frontier for business in the country.
“This area has witnessed major discoveries of rare earth minerals which if properly utilized have the potential of accelerating our shared prosperity,” he said.
Wamalwa who spoke in Naivasha during the official opening of a five day retreat for the development of a strategic plan for the department of ASAL areas said the plan will help address part of the historical injustices afflicting some areas and will also help the government put in place measures towards developing the regions.
Part of ASAL agenda, the CS said, was to ensure the counties were food sufficient as opposed to the regular distribution of relief food and pointed to the Galana Kulalu project as a good example towards self-food reliance.
The ministry PS Micah Powon said the department was determined to ensure more innovative approaches and interventions were applied to ensure inequalities faced by parts of the country over the years are addressed and also ensure the interventions are in line with the Big Four agenda that the government will be pursuing in the next five years.”
Meanwhile, the CS has reiterated government’s commitment to supporting devolution saying all necessary measures are in place to ensure services at the counties do not stall.
Speaking on the sidelines of a workshop for senior government officers’ Wamalwa appealed to governors to be patient as the government disburses funds to the counties.
While admitting the delay had affected operations in counties, the CS said the government was working round the clock to ensure the funds are disbursed as soon as possible. Wamalwa said the delay was occasioned by a prolonged electioneering season that he says almost crippled critical services from government.
Wamalwa’s sentiments comes a day after governors decried delay in release of county funds by the government saying all county operations had been crippled.
Wamalwa said the government had so far sent over one trillion shillings to counties since the advent of the new constitution an indication of government’s pledge towards devolved units.