France, Japan Aid Drought-Hit Kenya
Nairobi (AFP) Jan 11, 2006
France and Japan on Wednesday signed agreements with Kenya giving the drought-stricken east African nation grants and low-interest loans worth nearly 90 million dollars for rural power, water supply and farm aid.
The two countries inked deals for 87 million dollars in development assistance that Kenyan officials said would help the government concentrate its spending on projects to help millions of people at risk of famine from the drought.
The French Development Agency (AFD) gave the country two loans totaling 72.5 million dollars to improve water distribution in the capital and jumpstart stalled rural electrification projects in six remote districts, it said in a statement.
"The projects aim to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants in Nairobi and to simultaneously complement the implementation of the reforms in the water sector, by enabling the most urgent investments to be made," it said.
Tokyo gave Nairobi a grant of 10.5 million dollars and an additional four million dollars in aid to help farmers buy equipment and fertilizer amid what President Mwai Kibaki has declared a "national disaster" from the drought, the Japanese embassy said.
Kenyan Finance Minister David Mwiraria, speaking at the signing ceremony, said the assistance came "at an appropriate time to complement the government's efforts to increase food production."
At least 40 people have died from malnutrition and related illness in northeast Kenya alone since December and about 2.5 million Kenyans are expected to need food aid to survive the drought.
The UN says the drought has threatened 11 million people with starvation across the Horn of Africa.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said conditions in several of the country's best-known parks and reserves were such that animals, mainly elephants, were increasingly coming into conflict with residents of nearby villages and farms, posing risks to people and fauna.
"We have put out an alert for increased human-wildlife conflicts in the country," KWS spokeswoman Connie Maina told AFP. "Wildlife, notably elephants, have left parks in search of water following the dry spell in the country."
"We have deployed officers from the Problem Animal Management Unit to go to the affected areas and they are currently carrying out ground and aerial patrols with the view of controlling the problems," she said.
Maina said the most-affected sanctuaries are the Tsavo National Park, made up of Tsavo East and West, in southeastern Kenya and the highly popular Maasai Mara National Reserve in the southwest, where hundreds of elephants are reported to have invaded neighboring farms in search of food and water.
Officials said elephants had killed at least two people in the past two weeks around Tsavo, which is home to the largest number of the animals, and interrupted the funeral for one of the victims, prompting angry demonstrations from villagers.
"The priest had to cut short his speech after the elephants emerged and started charging at the mourners," the state-run Kenya News Agency (KNA) reported Wednesday, citing witnesses at the weekend burial of a septuagenarian cowherd, Haggai Kisombe, who was trampled to death while grazing his cattle.
"The besieged villagers resorted to shouting and blowing whistles forcing the beasts to retreat to the bush," KNA reported, adding that the crowd had then turned nasty in demanding government action against the elephants, barricading a road and stoning cars for more than three hours.
Julius Chepkei, the chief KWS warden at the sprawling Tsavo park, confirmed the incident had occurred but said much of the blame lay with the villagers themselves, who he said had tried to develop areas that elephants use.
"It is not that the elephants are dangerous, it is that people have put up settlements along the traditional elephant paths," he told AFP by phone from the park's headquarters.
Chepkei said that such incidents would likely rise in the coming months if the drought continues and that he feared the elephants would likely be followed out of the park by dangerous man-eaters like lions and hyenas.
"The problem is bound to increase if the current drought drags on for a long time," he said.
"We cannot entirely blame the animals."
In March 2005, KWS said Kenya's elephant population had jumped by about 10 percent since 2002 to stand at about 30,000 as a result of a severe clampdown on poaching.
The increasing numbers have increased stiff competition for scarce food and water that has been intensified because of the drought.
At least 40 people have died of malnutrition and related illness in northeast Kenya alone since December and the drought is now hitting areas further south. Some 2.5 million Kenyans are expected to need food aid to survive by the end of February.
Thousands of head of cattle, goats and camels have also died and the drought has raised fears of tribal clashes over water and pasture.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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