Building resilience to climate change in Mandera County

More about Mobilizing Investment for NDC Implementation Learning Theme 3:

As countries transition from climate policy planning to implementation, the practical challenges around resourcing and capacity are exposed. Poor integration of the climate change governance often lies at the heart of these challenges. Climate policy is not always integrated between departments and spheres of government, or not practically aligned to the private sector. 

Learning theme 3 focuses on Integrated Governance and explores these topics, scoping practical solutions to challenges.

Snapshot: Mandera County

An interview with Abdi Adan Abille, Deputy Director, Water Services, Mandera County, Kenya

Abdi Adan Abille, Deputy Director, Water Services, Mandera County

In the northeastern part of Kenya, the residents of Mandera County have historically been pastoralists. But Mandera County is now being plagued with prolonged droughts. The water scarcity and inadequate rainfall creates very dry conditions that are degrading the arable lands. In the border region with Ethiopia, food security is at crisis/ emergency levels. In December 2019, desert locusts entered Kenya from Somalia through Mandera and Wajir Counties and quickly spread through neighbouring regions. The locusts pose a significant threat to ongoing cash crop production and the cereal production season that begins in February and March. Based on conducive ecological conditions for breeding and spreading, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Locust Watch warns that the infestation is likely to persist through June.

The resulting loss of livestock from drought and changes in precipitation patterns pressures the residents to start settling in one place and adapt to a sedentary lifestyle. Paradoxically, this change in lifestyle — as a coping strategy, further exacerbates land degradation; as the communities must clear vegetation for space to settle, as well as gather wood for daily cooking fuel. These direct and indirect impacts of climate change are driving rapid desertification across the county.

Throughout the water sector, Mandera County has many “climate-proofing” projects designed to attenuate the effects of climate change. There is an important, strategic dual programme focus in adapting to climate change; drought mitigation and flood mitigation. These include the use of water pans and dams that help retain water between rain seasons. At the same time, these structures are designed in a manner to withstand floods without collapsing. During drought crises, the County supplies water to the communities hardest hit by the scourge— a system referred to as water tracking. Concurrently, the County also supplies nutritional supplements to lactating mothers and children under five years old.

Ground water is a key resource in Mandera County and there are approximately 155 boreholes, with about 10 new ones added each year. These water wells use pumps powered by diesel fuel. Recently, Mandera County has been working to integrate solar power across the borehole systems network, creating hybrid power water pumping systems. This strategy installs photovoltaic (PV) solar powered pumps, to complement the diesel generators in the system. In effect, this enables a diesel-free borehole system for 7 hours a day. This reduces costs, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and exhaust pollution. This use of clean, renewable energy reduces the use of fossil fuels and contributes to Kenya’s NDC GHG emission reduction targets. However, the county has no Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) programme that calculates nor quantifies the GHG emission reduction levels.

In the energy sector, there are about 8 principal towns that utilize PV solar street lights, and 10 institutions (mainly schools and hospitals) that have been provided with off-grid PV solar systems by the County Government. At the local level, solar PV panels are sold to residents and they are informed about the benefits of using solar power.

A key challenge to strengthening climate action investments in Mandera County is the absence of functional linkages between the national and local government. For instance, the National Climate Change Action Plan includes the NDC with a 30% GHG emission reduction target. However, this has yet to be translated to the county level. This makes it difficult for counties to understand emission mitigation opportunities and define their own specific targets. This is crucial to properly identify infrastructure and climate actions for investment at the local level, so that Kenya can achieve the national development target.

There is also the issue of defining and implementing a price on carbon and a credit transfer mechanism. Mandera County has planted numerous trees and distributed many seedlings to residents to scale reforestation efforts. However, there is currently no national policy present to determine how a carbon offset or a carbon credit transfer mechanism could support this work at the county level.

Moreover, support from national government is needed to act expeditiously in response to the climate change crises, as per the climate change indicators, to support investments and early mitigation actions; rather than only responding to crises or delivering aid once county governments are in desperate need.

The hybrid PV water pump boreholes and solar street lighting systems are distributed across different sub-counties. Mandera town has the greatest concentration, as it is the headquarters of the County. To date, Mandera County and the Kenya Off-grid Solar Project (KOSAP) are responsiblefor the successful implementation of these projects. Currently only 15% of the boreholes have been fit with PV solar pumps.With the remaining inventory of boreholes, and with the 10 new wells created annually, there is a significant opportunity for more collaboration and financing to scale up the investment of the solarization of the boreholes and installing street lights. This is an important investment priority within Mandera County.

While the County has established a monitoring and evaluation department, the purpose is mainly to create checks and balances and track progress in meeting development goals, including, climate change intervention measures. Nevertheless, Mandera County has also identified climate MRV training as a priority. This is to build capacity for calculating county inventories of GHG and short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) as well as track mitigation activities. Most importantly, this information is needed to improve decision making and public investments. This is one way that Mandera County seeks to enable mainstreaming of climate change in the various sectors as it will bring more clarity on the targets to be met and the investment opportunities and strategies to achieve them.

It is important to point out that this capacity building could be met with human resources and official development support provided by other countries — this is something the national government could help support. Mandera County has already published and shared their County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) with the Council of Governors. The County has also provided the same information within its regional county bloc to establish the particular projects that are investment ready.

Special thanks to the Technical Consultation Rapporteurs for their dedicated work to compile this information: Ms. Eve Wandeto, Ms. Amanda Wangari and Ms. Doreen Abiero.

Cover Image Credit: Mandera County from the Mandera County Government Official Page (

Ms Eve Wandeto

Ms Amanda Wangari

Ms Doreen Abiero