Climate Resilience in Kenya: The politics of integrated planning for water, energy and food

CDKN funded project by: Pegasys Institute, IDS and Losai Management in Kenya

Issues of water, energy and food are interrelated in many and complex ways: water plays a vital role in both food and energy production; energy is required for food production (especially irrigation) and for water supply; and for adequate food production there is a need for land, energy, and water. Because of this, there is an increasing recognition that these interrelations – the so- called Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus – need to be tackled in an integrated way, not in separate ‘silos’. The need for integrated planning becomes even more urgent and important with climate change, which puts additional risks on water, energy and food systems.

This Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) funded project seeks to explore barriers and opportunities for integrated nexus planning with a view to increased resilience to climate change. We are particularly interested in analysing processes at sub-national level, focusing on three counties: Laikipia, Machakos and Narok. This is particularly important in the context of Kenya’s ongoing devolution process, giving county governments increasing power over their resources. The new 2010 Kenyan Constitution devolved responsibility over core government functions, which has added to a complex county-level negotiation of priorities. The resulting scramble for national government funding and the baggage of historical structural bureaucracies makes it a challenging setting for integrated planning. This is especially so where there is inadequate or underused economic and human resources.

This research comes at an opportune time as climate finance is increasingly aimed at not only providing funding to national levels, but also to make financial resources available at sub-national levels. The project aims to contribute to a better understanding of how counties can be better positioned to handle climate funds to address key water, energy and food nexus concerns.

Understanding the actor landscape

Image 2

To do this, the project is working to understand the governance structures and process on WEF nexus concerns and climate change. The first aim was to identify the key actors across the three counties working on water, energy and food, and examine how they relate to and influence each other. A workshop held in Nairobi earlier this year brought together a range of actors in public institutions and civil society. For the mapping exercise we used Participatory Impacts Pathways Analysis (PIPA), an interactive mapping exercise pioneered by International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

The project team used this tool to go beyond just identifying and mapping formal structures and processes; by listening to the discussions of participants present (who didn’t always agree with one another) we started to understand the realities behind decision making and implementation at the county levels. Such mapping exercises only ever gives a snapshot of the situation at a given time, and reflects the consensus of the particular actors in the room. The strength of the maps is in their ability to visualise the real – as opposed to the formal – picture of who the major actors are, their relationships, and relative power. Some participants said the exercise gave them ‘light bulb moments’ in showing how things worked in practice at the county level. It also helped participants understand their own position and role in the networks. Importantly, the exercise helped reveal the ‘allies’ and ‘opponents’, i.e. the key actors the project needs to engage with in order to support a more integrated approach to tackling water, energy and food challenges in the face of climate change. Figure 1 gives an overview of a PIPA map of Narok County WEF actors including government bodies, faith based organisations, local community groups, international organisations, private sector, among others. .

So, what did we learn from the mapping?          

Figure 1: Narok County PIPA map

Some of the learning from the exercise included: Image 3

First, there are a large number of actors that play, or could play, supportive roles at county level. Many participants at the workshop felt that the network mapping had been an ‘eye opener’”, and some were disappointed in seeing their own organisation being considered to be at the periphery rather than at the centre of debates, where they had thought they were. This shows that while many organisations acknowledge the need for a more integrated way of working on WEF nexus issues there is some way to go still before this is happening in practice.

Second, there are several key actors across the counties that are currently opposed to, or explicitly or implicitly undermining integrated WEF nexus planning. The reasons for this vary. Examples include: Institutional power struggles, insufficient awareness of the value of nexus thinking, etc. Participants noted that there is a particular challenge in working with private sector actors, such as loggers and sand miners. As key investors, they shape, and sometimes dominate, nexus debates.

Third, the exercise revealed significant gender differences. In Machakos, women’s groups were considered to be not only strongly connected to the issue, but also powerful players. In the two other counties, women groups were either absent or played less important roles. This raises important questions of how gender sensitive and socially inclusive WEF integration strategies are, and in turn how men and women will be able to benefit from better integration.

Where do we go from here?

The above mentioned mapping exercise has formed the basis for further data collection, including government document reviews and in depth interviews at county level. This will be followed by policy roundtables at the end of November this year. We aim to create spaces at the policy events to strengthen old relationships and (where needed) help to build new ones, and to discuss strategies to overcome obstacles and challenges to integration. With the devolution process in Kenya, conflict and disputes over resources have emerged that may influence how counties integrate WEF nexus and climate change concerns. The project is an attempt at understanding, and responding to, the changing actor landscape as it unfolds.

Image sources: Neil Palmer, CIAT | Flickr (CC BY-SA-2.0) / Susan Byakika

The project team is led by PEGASYS in South Africa in collaboration with Losai Management Ltd, Kenya and the Institute of Development Studies, UK.

 Twitter: @barbaraShreinr

Date: 16 November 2015

Written by Admin on 16 November 2015