Harnessing a Flood for a Drought

How ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ interventions support food & water security in Kenya

Photo by Clare Stott

Kakuma, located in Northwest Kenya along the border with South Sudan, faces biannual flooding coupled with periods of severe drought. The region received international attention in 1991 when a camp was established there to host refugees fleeing conflict from nearby countries. Today, Kakuma is home to a large refugee community who are primarily farmers struggling to thrive in extreme weather conditions.

“…when we experience heavy rains it really affects our lives – flood water washes away households,
also animals and children and the old are washed away by this water; houses and structures are destroyed; farms are also washed away
” (Host community member).

GRP partners, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), joined forces with the local actors Lotus Kenya Action for Development Organisation (LOKADO) to conceive and deliver the Community Flood Resilience Project (COFREP) in Kakuma. The resulting project layered ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ response techniques to build resilience against environmental shocks and stresses. Some of these techniques provided immediate relief, while others were more gradual, in order to provide long-term benefits. Clare Stott Consultant, ITAD, produced a case study on the project based on data collected from a field visit in June 2018.

’In the past, Kakuma received a lot of humanitarian support to cope with flooding and droughts. But this failed to produce sustainable solutions for the issues the communities were facing.’’ Wrote Stott.

Since floods and droughts severely effect the community, these issues needed to be tackled immediately. To lessen the severity of floods, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) built a check dam and a large water pan to store water and reduce floodwater. This provided an immediate, fast response to flooding.

The project leads taught the communities how to harvest the floodwater for crops and livestock. They also worked with the communities to regenerate indigenous vegetation and grazing land. This in turn expanded the green belt in the area, which additionally reduces flooding.

Through these interventions, livelihood opportunities emerged such as harvesting floodwater for crop production, employment in tree nurseries, and access to local markets during the flood season, which previously would have been inaccessible.

The COFREP project has moved away from quick fix humanitarian response to a providing a more comprehensive development approach by layering fast and slow interventions to enable the communities to be more resilient. The communities are now working with nature to cope with environmental shocks and benefiting.

This news item is based off the case study, Building resilience in the humanitarian-development nexus: The Community Flood Resilience Project, Kakuma, Kenya.

The Z Zurich Foundation funded COFREP through the Water Window Challenge round.