The combined effects of climate change and rapid population growth are increasing food insecurity, environmental degradation, and poverty levels in the 47 newly-defined counties in Kenya. Unless these issues are fully prioritized in development strategies and implemented in an integrated manner, it will be very difficult for counties, and Kenya more broadly, to achieve sustainable development.
As Kenya’s devolution to counties leadership continues to take shape, local policymakers have a unique opportunity to inform decision-making with data. To engage county policymakers with a view of enhancing policy support for the integration of these issues, these county-specific policy briefs highlight the links in their communities between population dynamics, environment, climate change and sustainable development. The project targets five counties of Kenya: Homa Bay, Kisumu, Kitui, Makueni, and Siaya. Read the briefs at right for county-specific research.
Homa Bay County
Kitui County’s population is growing rapidly. This growth is largely a result of high fertility, which is currently 5.1 children per woman, compared to a national average of 4.6 children per woman. There is increasing demand for smaller families and use of modern contraception among women in Kitui, and addressing barriers to access and use of family planning would further reduce fertility. In 2011, about one in five married women who wanted to postpone their next birth or stop childbearing altogether were not using any method of contraception.
Currently, the county’s population is dominated by young people who need to be supported by those in the workforce. Almost three quarters of the population is under 30 years old and about a half is under 15 years. The county environmental action plan identifies the young population and high unemployment as threats to development. Kitui County’s young age structure also means that the population will continue to grow for several generations. However, if birth rates were to decline rapidly, the age structure of the population would shift and there would be more working- age adults relative to children. Consequently the county could benefit from what is called the “demographic dividend” – economic growth resulting from increased productivity and greater savings due to a lower number of dependents. Benefits of the demographic dividend are optimized when accompanied by investments in health and education, and pro-growth, job-creating economic reforms.
In Makueni, the livelihoods of most county residents depend on rain-fed small-scale farming, a practice that is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. Rapid population growth places enormous pressure on natural and environmental resources such as forests, water, and land. Already scarce resources such as arable farmland must be subdivided among more people, resulting in over-exploitation and low productivity. As the county’s population increases, these pressures on resources will be magnified.