The Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) of Kenya make up to 89% of the country, covering 29 counties and a population of about 16 million people. For decades, these areas were marginalized, seen as unproductive, with news on cattle rustling, drought, insecurity and poverty hiding the great potential of the region especially in renewable energy sector, tourism and livestock production. In a bid to explore this potential, the Ministry of devolution and the ASAL hosted a three day conference in Malindi, Kilifi county to create a platform for prioritization and investment in programs that would accelerated social, economic and cultural development of the region. Speaking during the opening ceremony Deputy President William Ruto said that with the advent of Devolution, there was need to change the narrative of ASAL communities from marginalization to opportunity and potential
"Arid and Semi Arid areas have great economic potential and if unlocked, can change millions of lives, lift up communities and secure prosperity for many generations
The UN Resident coordinator and UNDP resident Representative Siddharth Chatterjee called for partnerships with various stakeholders to support the counties unleash their potential.
"Agriculture has been proved to pull the maximum number of people out of poverty. The UN family will work with the government and the private sector to ensure food security and resilience is achieved."
The conference was organized in thematic areas to enable ASAL counties explore their potential in different thematic areas including; Food Security; Infrastructure, industrial and Enterprise development; education; Health and Nutrition; Social inclusion and Gender mainstreaming; and Sustainable Management of Natural resources. “With this conference, this is just a sign of the goodwill the two levels of Government and our development partners have towards ‘unlocking’ the 29 ASAL Counties’ potential,” said H.E Josphat Nanok the Chairman, Council of Governors.
The conference was an opportunity for both levels of Government to come together and face the challenges that ASAL Counties face while seeking solutions on the same.