Wajir county opens GIS lab to support rangeland and water planning

  • By Claire Bedelian
  • 28/05/2019

Wajir County Governor, Mohammed Abdi, opens the Wajir county GIS lab with Yohannes Wolday, Kenya’s county director of Mercy Corps. (Courtesy: Mercy Corps)


In Wajir County, northern Kenya, the County Governor stressed the importance of focusing on the livestock sector to build the resilience of the County to climate change.  At a multi-stakeholder policy workshop hosted by the Wajir County Government on the 21st May, Governor Mohamed Abdi said ‘pastoralism provides a resilient livelihood for the majority of the population, and now the county requires a strong policy legal framework that supports pastoralism and recognises it as a productive and resilient livelihood’.

The workshop shared findings from the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme funded by the UK Government, and was attended by County Chief Officers and County Executive Committee Members of the Wajir County Departments of Water, Land, Agriculture, Livestock, Environment and ICT, as well as partners of the BRACED programme including Mercy Corps and IIED, and members of the community.

A key event in the workshop was the launch of the Wajir County GIS Lab, only the second of its kind in Kenya, just beaten to first place by the opening of the Vihiga County GIS lab the week before. The lab will assist the Wajir County Government to develop their County spatial land use and development plans. The Governor said that the GIS lab will now provide County staff with secure and robust hardware and software to develop a GIS-based County Spatial Plan, a requirement of all of Kenya’s 47 counties.

County staff can now put to use their new skills in GIS and participatory resource mapping.  Staff from the Department of Lands and ICT were trained in GIS mapping by the GeoData Institute in Southampton, a partner in BRACED.  Following this, and accompanied by representatives from Mercy Corps and the Wajir Community Radio, they visited each of the 30 wards in Wajir County, mapping resources with community members.  Alongside community elders and women, they mapped roads, schools, health centres, water points, grazing areas, amongst others.  This data will now be used to help with county planning, resource allocation and to identify development priorities.

One important use of the data will be to inform sustainable rangeland management, particularly the location of water points in relation to grazing land. A key issue that came out clearly during the workshop was the proliferation of water points in Wajir that is causing grazing areas to shrink and pastures to be depleted.  Using the spatial data and knowing the location of existing water points and grazing areas, county planners can now make more informed decisions and ask, is a new water point necessary in this area?  Is this viable?  What will be the effect on the grazing land?  In the drylands, these are key factors to consider to ensure that water development supports the sustainable grazing of pastures and provides the correct pasture-water balance.

The Governor stressed the importance of the water sector to Wajir County and the need to improve water and sanitation services in the County.  Recommendations from a study carried out by the Wajir County Water Department as part of the programme will be used to inform Wajir’s water sector and the current development of Wajir’s county water policy and associated legislation.

Another related issue discussed during the workshop was the politically-driven mushrooming of settlements in Wajir that is affecting pasture and water.  This is limiting the availability of water and pasture, creating conflict, and making it difficult to plan water development priorities. 

What was central in the discussions is making sure that communities voices are heard in water development, and in any development in general. Halima Kahiye of the Wajir Radio Station said, ‘we need to strengthen the voice of our community; if a community member says for us to be more resilient, we will need a borehole, then the County Government need to take that initiative’. Halima and colleagues from the Wajir Community Radio participated in the participatory resource mapping and water study to ensure that community voices were heard and documented.  The radio also hosted a talk show with the CCO for Water, Yussuf Diyab, and allowed listeners to call in with their questions and concerns regarding water in their areas. 

As a county where 80% of the population are dependent on livestock keeping, the Governor highlighted how ensuring a more resilient livestock sector will contribute ‘to improved livestock productivity, higher incomes and higher food security for Wajir Citizens, reduced conflict for resources and better recovery from drought’. 

Claire Bedelian is a consultant with the International Institute for Environment and Development Drylands team.

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