East African leaders, donors and NGOs began a two-day meeting in the Kenyan capital on 8 September to once again discuss how to prevent the region’s frequent droughts from triggering severe food crises or even famine.

By the government’s own admission, in Kenya, weather shocks repeatedly and unnecessarily lead to crises because of the perennial marginalization of vast areas of the country where raising livestock is the main occupation.

The following data are extracted from the government’s latest “sustainable solutions” plan (with one self-evident exception):

  • 12 percent: contribution to GDP from pastoralism, which receives almost no government subsidies;
  • More than 80 percent: land mass covered by arid or semi-arid areas (ASALs);
  • 36 percent: primary school enrolment rate in Northeastern province;
  • 93 percent: national average enrolment rate;
  • 3.8 million: people in ASALs currently affected by drought;
  • 700,000: people in other rural areas facing food insecurity (many more in urban areas);
  • 2.4 percent: annual GDP loss attributed to severe drought and floods;
  • US$8 million: amount donated by citizens to the current relief effort;
  • $4 million: approximate amount lost to suspected fraud from a recent World Bank arid lands project;
  • $740 million: estimated cost of humanitarian response to current national disaster;
  • $173 million: annual government expenditure on emergency operations between 1999 and 2010;
  • Less than 10 percent: proportion of usual rain that fell on much of northern Kenya during 2011 long rains;
  • 70-130 percent: rise above five-year averages of current maize prices in parts of the country;
  • 175,000: projected deficit, in tons, of maize by June 2012.