The dominant production system in the arid counties, and in some of the semi-arid counties, is pastoralism. The primary policy challenge is how to ensure food and nutrition security in a sustainable manner in environments that are prone to drought, where people’s access to and control over critical livelihood resources such as land is insecure, and where climate change will increase unpredictability.
There is significant variation within the ASALs. Population density ranges from 1 or 2 people per km2 in parts of Turkana and Marsabit to 358 people per km2 in parts of Kilifi. Access to infrastructure and services in semi-arid counties – with the exception of those with significant pastoral populations – is roughly comparable with the national average, while in arid counties it is far below the national average For example, in 2008 there were 87 secondary schools in semi-arid Kitui (1 school per 809 students) but only 12 secondary schools in arid Garissa (1 school per 1,310 students)
The phenomenon of climate change has had very adverse effects on the way of life in the Asals and call for concerted efforts to design and implement interventions that will be sustainable and climate proofed. The communities are also being encouraged to adopt new livelihood measures to enable diversification and build their resilience against recurrent drought.
The Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs) occupy approximately 89% of the country’s landmass. It is home to about 36% of the population, 70% of the national livestock herd and 90% of wildlife. The annual rainfall in arid areas ranges between 150 mm and 550 mm and semi-arid areas between 550 mm and 850 mm per year. Temperatures are high throughout the year, with high rates of evapo-transpiration. In Kenya, 29 counties are classified as Arid and Semi-Arid areas as represented in the Map below;