Original Research

A political economy analysis of decision-making on natural disaster preparedness in Kenya

Karen C. Rono-Bett
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 10, No 1 | a497 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v10i1.497 | © 2018 Karen C. Rono-Bett | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 May 2017 | Published: 12 April 2018

About the author(s)

Karen C. Rono-Bett, Development Initiatives International, Nairobi, Kenya


Most deaths from natural disasters occur in low- or middle-income countries; among them, countries in the Horn of Africa – where Kenya lies. Between September 2015 and September 2016, 23.4 million people in this region faced food insecurity because of the 2015 El Niño, characterised by floods and droughts. The importance of effective government decision-making on preparedness and response are critical to saving lives during such disasters. But this decision-making process occurs in a political context which is marred by uncertainty with other factors at play. Yet, good practice requires making investments on a ‘no-regrets’ basis. This article looks at the factors influencing Kenya’s decision-making process for natural disasters, the preparedness for the 2015 El Niño as a case study. I explored what stakeholders understand by ‘no-regrets investments’ and its application. I assessed financial allocations by government and donors to disaster preparedness. Based on key informant interviews, focus group discussions and financial analyses, this article presents evidence at national and subnational levels. The findings indicate that in making decisions relating to preparedness, the government seeks information primarily from sources it trusts – other government departments, its communities and the media. With no existing legal frameworks guiding Kenya’s disaster preparedness, the coordination of preparedness is not strong. It appears that there is a lack of political will to prioritise these frameworks. The no-regrets approach is applied predominantly by non-state actors. Because there have been ‘non-events’ in the past, government has become overcautious in committing resources on a no-regrets basis. Government allocation to preparedness exceeds donor funding by almost tenfold.


political economy; no-regrets investments; non-events; El Niño; government decision-makers; disaster preparedness


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