Tana River County takes its name from River Tana which is the longest river in Kenya. It is a county in the former Coast Province, Kenya with a population of 315,943 according to the 2019 census and an area of 35,375.8 square kilometres (13,658.7 sq. mi).
The administrative headquarter of the county is Hola. The County has three sub-counties; Bura, Galole and Garsen.
Tana River is one of the 14 counties listed as marginalised in the First Policy highlighting marginalised areas in Kenya. In the second policy, which identified areas as opposed to counties, Tana River has 65 areas identified as marginalised (see table 1 below).
Meeting with the Governor
On the first day of our visit, we paid a courtesy call on the Governor of Tana River County, H.E. Dhadho Godhana. During the visit, he appraised the team on various projects the county is undertaking and is planning to undertake.
He informed the team that he realised that the county is affected by climate change when he became governor. Economic activity in the county depends a lot on River Tana and fluctuations in its level affects the county a lot. Over the past 19 years, there has been a drop in the level of the river with no floods occurring. Unlike other areas, floods are important in the county as the water reaches a large area, leading to increased vegetation. However, the river moved and in certain areas, it has affected towns such as towns of Chara, Gozi among others. This has left the county food scarce and food production has gone down %. In coastal areas, the sea wall is collapsing and eating into hotel space, this reflux of the sea has been progressing for the past 15 years.
This has made the county undeveloped and 85% of its population is not engaged in businesses, while 12% of the remaining 15% of businesses are run by people from outside the county. We have used Mpesa as a proxy indicator for businesses in our county. We have noted that most agents lack the ability to take large deposits, which may indicate that most funds as transferred to other regions most received.
Further, the Governor informed the team that the county has identified 3 things that left them behind: Ignorance, Indifference/clashes and Poverty. Poverty is a consequence of the cyclic disasters the county faces: floods followed by drought, which brings about conflict. We have related all of this to climate change and have started the following climate-smart policies and projects:
Village Cluster Programme
This programme aims at moving people from lower to higher areas in the county to mitigate the effects of flooding. Villagers identify places where the county comes in and build an eco-village and construct water, ICT and roads for them. This process allows partners to plug in and assist in the provision of services to the populace such as education, roads, cottage industries among others.
The plan involves people moving with their current temporary houses and once settled the county comes in with a ‘Boma Yangu’ programme where houses are built for them. All this takes place on community land.
The county plans to group the clusters into associations depending on the main economic activity taking place in the area. For example, areas with high farming potential will be grouped into farmers associations, which will enable the community to benefit from services aimed at improving their agricultural produce. Other associations envisioned include fisheries, poultry, among others.
The county has purchased 10 tractors and now have a total of 14, with which they assist subsistence farmers free of charge; they charge a fee for those in commercial farming who use the equipment.
Under fisheries, they have opened up channels in River Tana and have restocked the main ox-bow lake called Shakababo, with fish. In addition, the county has created a bay along the lake and opened up the area for tourists.
The county has received support from several donors on various projects. The European Union is supporting a cold-storage facility and a deep-sea trawler for use by local fishermen. The county has supplemented this by purchasing 6 boats for members of fishing SACCOs.
Under the Kenya Urban Support Programme (KUSP), the county has done stormwater drainage in Hola town.
The CRA chairperson informed the Governor that the Commission is ready to support the county in the new KUSP grant process by supporting the expansion of the programme to include smaller urban areas.
The Commission further advised the county to make the village clusters the units identified as Project Identification Units (PIUs) in the Commission’s Second Policy on Marginalisation. This will allow for funding from the Equalisation Fund, to go directly to these areas.
Field Visit to Projects and Marginalised Areas in the County
The Commission also visited various projects being carried out by the county.
The county is building its headquarters in Mikidani Ward of Galole Sub County. It has built cabro (paving blocks) feeder roads to the offices from the main road. The county is building roads using cabro instead of tarmac because of floods that come during the rainy season. For example, in 2018 floods washed away several roads and the national government gave 1 billion to build new roads, which were again washed away by floods. Using cabro, the county saves up to 3 billion per year.
Village Clusters in Mikidani Ward
Each of the clusters in the area can support 6,500 households.
At the Handampia cluster, the county has built a borehole that will support the cluster’s households.
Hola Irrigation Scheme
The county has subsidized fertilizer and pesticides used in the cotton farms.
This borehole was built using funds from the Equalisation Fund. It serves the Gafuru Community, Gafuru Health Centre, Ndura Secondary school and neighbouring villages.
Water at the kiosk is sold at Ksh. 2.5 per 20 litres container. The water is pumped using solar energy from the Kelokelo borehole. However, when there is little sunlight, it is unable to pump as they lack the capacity to store the energy. The community needs a battery to store the power to pump the water even at night.
Galole Mango Processing Plant
The Commission visited the Mango processing plant in Galole. It uses piped water from Kelokelo Borehole. The project stalled due to non-disbursement of funds due to a court order which disbanded the Equalization Board.
Chirfa Water pan
The Chirfa sublocation water pan was built by the county and has a capacity of 38,000 cubic litres. However, failed rains have left it dry and only a small puddle of water remains.
Residents of the area use local water bowsers (donkeys that travel long distances). The challenge of water in the area can be resolved when funds from the Equalization Fund are released.
River Tana Borehole
This is an Equalization Fund project and has a 30km pipeline. It serves Garsen town and the surrounding community; about 40,000 people. It pumps water to Jiljila town and is operated by Tana Water and Sanitation Company (TAWASCO).
Odha vocational centre, Garsen
The centre started in July 2017. The county government has built and furnished classrooms and a computer laboratory. It trains about 30 students in ICT and fashion design/garment design. Plan to start an electrical course soon.
The main challenge is the lack of school fees among students. However, the school supports the students by requesting assistance from well-wishers.
The Commission concluded its visit by appreciating the support and welcome received from the Tana River County Government. The team noted that the Equalization Fund has been used well in the county. The Commission supported the village cluster system developed by the County and noted that this was a good way to provide services to the people. The county was advised to ensure the clusters reach every community in the county for proper representation.
The Commission noted that there is a need to increase substantially the counties budget for water and health services.