Decentralization, Poverty, and the Environment in Kenya's Lake Victoria Basin: The Potential Role for Local Authorities in the Nyando River Basin
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The Lake Victoria basin of Kenya is an area of hunger, disease, poverty and environmental degradation. These issues are multifaceted and interrelated, creating a systemic cycle of escalating rural poverty, under investment in natural resources, and environmental degradation. Until government agencies effectively address these issues, this trend will continue to worsen. Decentralization of powers to local authorities is one suggested solution to counter this trend of poverty and degradation. International experience has shown that the performance of empowered local authority is highly dependent upon the capacity, incentives, accountability, and values of the authority. In Kenya, recent moves by the Ministry of Local Government and the Constitution Review Committee have begun to transfer increased resources to district level county councils, the lowest level of elected government in the country. Results presented in this paper show that the three administrative districts within the Nyando River basin of Lake Victoria are diverse in their strengths and potential for success in any proposed decentralization. Further decentralization within the area of study must take into account key issues, including little collaboration and communication between the various district authorities, limited understanding of the inter linkages between environmental degradation and rural poverty, a critical shortage of financial resources in impoverished districts, and limited feedback and incentives in implementing environmental projects. Through increased environmental sensitization of local authorities and augmentation of the current Local Authority Transfer Fund structure, decentralization can be successful in the basin.
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