Why Turkana remains poorest county in Kenya

Why Turkana remains poorest county in Kenya


on  Friday, December 23   2011 at  00:00

The recent report that indicated that Turkana is the most poorest county is saddening. This means that in this county, nine out of ten live below the poverty line (use less than one US dollar a day). While I agree with the facts as they were presented by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), I would like to point out at salient facts that led to this sorry state of affairs. Much as this might be the case the various governments, post-and pre-independence are squarely to blame.

I say so because nowhere else are historical injustices as glaring as in Turkana County. Right from as late as 1954, the Swynerton Plan, through to 2011, things have remained the same in Turkana County. The likes of the Northern Frontier District (NFD) where Turkana is located were declared no go zones for any semblance of development.

Reliable records show that, in the mid-1960s, there were only two primary schools in Turkana and there was no secondary school. Today, there about 300 primary schools, 10 secondary schools and no tertiary institution. Pupils who complete their education from these primary schools go to waste because of the few secondary schools and lack of school fees to transit to higher levels.

Teachers at the primary school level are barely 2000 and those at higher levels are not more than 70. Graduates since time immemorial are less than 300. This in comparison to other parts of the country is a drop in the ocean. As late as 1967, Turkana District was still a closed district. Historically, Turkana county seems to have not benefited during the colonial times and even during the independence period. Most of any semblance of development is credited to the church and NGOs. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Norwegian government through Norad made a bold move to identify the real needs of Turkana and almost managed to achieve it through the Turkana Rural Development Programme.

This was nipped in the bud by the Kanu government on 22nd October, 1990. Kenya then severed relations with the Norwegian government. Since then no meaningful development project has taken off. Livestock marketing was to be improved to create wealth. This never saw the light of the day. The Turkana Fishermen’s Cooperative Society was to be revived by pumping in a considerable amount of money. It never came to be. The degraded environment was to be rehabilitated through a re-afforestation programme. This was never to be.

A report this year by the National Cohension and Integration Commission revealed that residents of Turkana are less than 0.1 per cent of the workforce in the Civil Service. Higher numbers would be a source of wealth creation. Would you expect such a people not to be poor? The big question then is, how on earth would Turkana create wealth with such odds ranged against it? What rank should you expect Turkana County to occupy? In sum, all that comes out clearly is that historical injustices have formed the backbone of the seemingly inherent poverty. Thus, Turkana tops the poverty ranking.

Prof Akuja comments on topical issues.