Jacqueline H. Wilson, U.S. Institute of Peace
Can Aquifer Discovery in Kenya Bring Peace to Desolate Region?October 28, 2013 By Wilson Center Staff
The people of northern Kenya currently face many daily hardships. Primarily pastoralists by livelihood, their cycle of life focuses on the basics – securing food and water for family and livestock, constructing shelter from the unforgiving sun, and finding sustenance when periodic droughts ravage the region. A 2011 drought affected millions of people, and tens of thousands of livestock died. Approximately 90 percent of the area’s population lives below the poverty line.
The physical hardship is made worse by a man-made blight of illiteracy and a lack of economic development. Marginalization – and sheer geographical distance – from the central government in Nairobi coupled with the unabated flow of small arms across porous borders means that frequent conflicts over water and grazing land often turn deadly.
The new discovery – using a combination of satellite data and traditional ground sensing – of multiple huge underground water reserves in Turkana constitutes a proverbial jackpot. The trifecta includes large supplies of water, new oil discoveries nearby, and an almost certain surge of economic development and attention from governments and businesses.
Video Credit: UNESCO groundwater mapping feature, courtesy of UNESCO.