Climate Change (120)

 

LUANDA, Kenya (PAMACC News) - At 11 O’clock in Essong’olo village in the heart of Vihiga County, 400 kilometres west of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Philemon Echoka sits under a mango tree to listen to his favorite weekly radio programme – ‘farming in the face of climate change.’

He increases the volume of his yellow coloured solar powered FM radio as Moses Ombogo, the broadcaster at Anyole Radio introduces his guest-Japheth Manga Amutete – in a local Luhya dialect called Olunyole. And on this particular morning, the subject of discussion is ‘aquaculture as a method of adapting to climate change.’

Anyole Radio, run by the Nganyi RANET Community Radio Station in Western Kenya is one of five community radio stations established by the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) in different parts of the country prone to different climate stresses to help locals understand the prevailing climate and weather patterns so as to develop resilience.

The Nganyi community members are renowned rainmakers in Vihiga County. Their traditional methods of weather forecasts have since attracted the attention of international researchers, who have concluded that blending traditional weather predictions with modern science may provide a more accurate forecast. It is based on this kind of knowledge that Anyole Radio was launched on March 23, 2015 to disseminate weather and climate information across the entire Vihiga County and to parts of the neighbouring counties that include Kakamega, Busia and Kisumu counties.

But before the discussion begins on this day on Ombogo’sprogramme, the announcer takes time to read out the weather forecast for the week, revealing that despite of it being late, the long rainfall season will delay even further, and that farmers must start using climate smart techniques to adapt to the changing climatic conditions.

“That is one of the reasons why we have Amutete in the studio today, to discuss how smallholder farmers can start up fish farming projects for extra income generation,” announces Ombogo using the Olunyole dialect.

“This programme has always been a blessing to me,” said Echoka, who ownsa two-acre piece of land in Vihiga and another of the same size in Nangili in Kakamega County, still in thewestern part of the country.

Generally, the community radio station was targeted to reach out to 250,000 members of the Abanyole community, but with its infiltration to neighbouring counties, it ends up serving tens of thousands more who can understand the local dialect. The dialect can be understood by nearly all Luhya speaking individuals.

Within the entire Luhya community Kakamega has 1,660,651 people, second to Nairobi with 3,138,369, Bungoma (1,374,477), Busia (743,946) and Vihiga (554,622) as per the country’s last round of census.

So far in his Kakamega farm, Echoka is taking advantage of the dry spell to make money as other farmers keep staring at the azure blue skies, praying for the heavens to open for the elusive rains to come down.

“From my savings, I bought a 6,000-litreportable water tank trailer, and for sure, having such equipment is the easiest way of making money at a time when everyone is complaining of the dry spell,” he said.

As people in Kakamega wait for the rains to come, others have been using Echoka’s portable water tank trailerto fetch water for irrigation especially for vegetable gardens, while others use the same to fetch water for construction among other uses, earning the farmer up to $100 (Sh10,000) per week.

“I charge betweento $30-40 (Sh3000 and Sh4000) per single supply depending on the distance from the river,” said Echoka.

This is one of the ideas that the farmer learned from Anyole radio a few years ago, during a discussion on how people can take advantage of the tough climatic conditions to generate income. “For me, the drought is a blessing in disguise. But when it starts raining, I will do what everyone does; plant crops,” said Echoka.

To others, especially the elderly people, the prevailing climatic conditions are something completely new to them. “I have never experienced what the country is going through today,” said Matthias Wanzala, 89 years from Mungakha village, Matungu in Kakamega . “Since I was a small boy, the month of April was always a month for rainfall,” he said.

On this day’s programme on Anyole Radio, Amutete is talking about fish farming, how to construct a good fish pond, the hygienic standards, how to make fish feeds from locally available resources, and how to keep predators away from the fish ponds.

But at the same time, he is faced with tough questions from listeners who are calling in, and they want to know if fish diseases exist, how to know that fish is sick, and how sick fish are treated.

On his farm in Ebulonga village in Vihiga County, the 56 year-old retired civil servant keeps 10,000 tilapia and catfishfingerlings in eight fish ponds that use water from a nearby water spring called Wamanga.

“I have already harvested five times and in the next two months, two of my ponds will be ready for harvesting,” said Amutete.

He now dreams of keeping the Nile Perch, a freshwater carnivorous fish species that grows very fast, and could be ideal for quick income generation. “I am still doing my feasibility study to see if Nile Perch can thrive on this farm,” he said.

Through trial and error and use of traditional knowledge, the retiredgovernment officer has perfected the aquaculture skill, and he has been sharing the knowledge through the community radioprogrammes.

“Whenever we are discussing such a topic, people call in and some of the callers happen to be experts in this particular field. So, I also get to learn a lot from them,” said the farmer during an interview next to his fish ponds in Ebulonga village.

At the Nganyi RANET Community Radio Station, the KMD has already built and equipped a resource centre together with a library, a climate information center, and a community computer centre, all with support from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-country African trade bloc.

According to Dr Byron Anangwe of the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), having accurate weather forecast is extremely important, but it becomes meaningless if it is notavailed to the people who need it.

“Communities can only adapt to the prevailing climatic conditions only if they have access to real-time weather forecasting, long-term drought prediction tools, and advanced water monitoring systems among other useful hydromet services,” saidAnangwe.

According to Dr James Murombedzi, the Officer in Charge at the Africa Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) “Africa’s economies are dependent on climate change-related fields like agriculture and need relevant and timely climate information services that can be translated into decision-making tools to budget for climate disruptions,” he told PAMACC News during a Climate Information Services (CIS) workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Through the 2014 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR) the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) underscores that rapid and uncertain changes in precipitation and temperature patterns in sub-Saharan Africa threaten food production and increase the vulnerability of smallholder farmers, which can result in food price shocks and increased rural poverty.

“Many times we have incurred losses due to delayed rainfall seasons, or sometimes when the rains come too early when we are not ready for planting,” said Esther Otinga from Ebusiratsi in Vihiga.

The mother of three school going children recalls the losses she incurred when she planted based on traditional knowledge in 2011. “Since I was a child, the long rain season always begun between the 23rd and 25th of March every year, and so on 25th that year, there were all signs of rainfall, and I planted maize on the entire four acre piece of land, and another two acre piece elsewhere in anticipation that it would rain any time,” she said.

But two weeks later, there was no rainfall. She ended up losing the seed, the fertilizer, and the money she had used to pay six casual labourers who had helped her in the exercise.

Since then, she has been a keen follower of weather forecasts and advisories through local and community media so as to make informed decisions on her farm.

“I thank God that several FM stations have emerged, and through them we get to learn about the prevailing weather and climatic conditions,” said Otinga.

ACCRA, Ghana (PAMACC News) - Extreme weather is becoming commonplace as the world warms. With rising temperatures, the signs of climate change are everywhere – as more people feel the devastating impacts of stronger storms, droughts and burning heat waves.

Indeed, excessive floods are wreaking havoc on people’s lives around the world.

In the last few weeks alone, Cyclone Idai has impacted the lives of millions, killing more than 1,000 in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The affected countries will need over $2 billion to recover, according to World Bank estimates.

Even before the affected receive support, cyclone Kenneth is making a dangerously unprecedented strike in Northern Mozambique.

The economics of climate change is staggering. In 2017 alone, natural disasters – from floods to fires – caused record losses of $330 billion.

The need for people to take bold action in response to the devastation is now louder than before.

When local people are hardest hit
Saturday, July 14, 2018 went down as a solemn day at the Asokore Mampong community in Ghana’s Ashanti region.

Tears flowed uncontrollably as the mortal remains of three children and a woman, all victims of floods, were conveyed for burial after an emotionally-charged requiem service.

A day after torrential rains, the bodies of Christian, Louisa, Liza and Susana were recovered by officers of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO).

The four were among more than 15 people in the region who were swept away by high currents of flood water, following incessant downpour in June 2018.

The situation was dire in other parts of Ghana, including the capital, Accra, which experience perennial flood disasters.

Questions have been asked if such deaths could have been averted. But the rains will not wait for answers before resuming the onslaught in 2019.

Severe rainstorms in the month of April alone have wrecked havoc in parts of Ghana, killing people and displacing hundreds in schools, homes and communities.

Unabated Flood Devastation
In years past, the sign of rains brought joy as children had fun bathing in the heavenly showers of blessings.

Today, many a community in major cities in Ghana begins to panic when the clouds get dark. People run for cover when the clouds gather for fear of losing lives and property to the rains.

Floods have ravaged communities, caused havoc to roads and collapsed bridges. Residents have been displaced, communities cut off, and socio-economic livelihoods impacted negatively.


The worse impacted are farmers – some farms in lowland areas get submerged in high volumes of flood water, after a downpour. Instead of counting their blessings of bumper harvest, farmers wail because they are unable to cart their harvests from farmlands to the market because of bad roads.

The Ghana Meteorological Agency anticipates more rainstorms and floods in 2019, and has warned farmers and residents in flood prone communities to stay alert.

There are likely agricultural losses with dire food security implications, as prices of foodstuff like maize, cassava, plantain and vegetables shoot up on the local market.

Driving Factors
Recent rains in Kumasi have been described as ‘unprecedented’ by residents. Streets and homes have been inundated as vehicles, houses and other property are submerged.

The blocking of drains and canals has been identified as the immediate cause of flooding. Indiscriminate dumping of refuse, especially plastics, blocks the drains and prevents water from running through the drainages and waterways.

Another major cause of flooding is the indiscriminate construction of buildings on waterways and wetland.

Runoff water needs to find space when the ground cannot absorb the rains. With structures sitting on waterways and the ground not able to contain the excess water, flooding is bound to occur.

These flood risks are exacerbated by climate change. Unfortunately, flood-prone communities cannot access accurate flood information to stay alert to stay safe from the floods.

Building Resilient Urban Eco-System
According to experts, rainfall patterns have been distorted leading to variation in the amount of rain. Parts of the country are likely to experience flooding due to a shift in rainfall pattern caused by climate change.

In recent days, local authorities have taken steps to dredge drainage systems and construct storm drains to reduce the impact of water overflow.

However, the effective management of solid waste and enforcement of laws on environmental sanitation are as critical as investing in green infrastructure.

The bigger picture, perhaps, is for local economies to efficiently manage the built environment in anticipation of future climate impacts. The construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure must take into consideration extreme weather conditions.

The need for climate resilience in planning the urban eco-system should also take into consideration investments in climate-smart construction materials and technologies, while restoring and creating attractive landscapes, creating room for floodwaters by removing silt and restoring marshy riverine.

There should also be the concerted drive to create more awareness around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and human activities that adversely predispose the environment to degradation. Both State and Non-State actors should have the capacity to identify, create and implement actionable solutions to adapt to climate change.

Afforestation and agroforestry are major entry points to combat climate change and its impact on the environment, hence the need for communities to join forces with State actors in committing to initiate tree planting projects to re-green the environment.

The world must take climate action through the implementing the Paris Climate Agreement by cutting greenhouse gas emissions to slow the speed of global warming.

But communities in vulnerable economies like Ghana cannot delay in taking adaptation measures to curtail the devastating impacts of climate change.

PROFILE

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Joseph Mithika Mwenda never expected to be named among the world's 100 most influential people in climate change policy this year.

Despite being the executive director of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a civil society organization that champions for a healthy earth, Mwenda never thought that he was on the same level with some of the prominent people in the world.

So when the announcement by Apolitical, a global network for governments came, last month, Mwenda’s name was among the 100nominated by hundreds of public servants from around the world, including experts at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Harvard University, Oxford University, Bloomberg Philanthropies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The list has people currently making the biggest impact on climate change policy including government ministers, academics, environmental activists and the church where Catholic’s Pope Francis is from.

The list recognizes include high-profile advocates whose work is indispensable to raising awareness and demanding change. Others are young rising stars who are making their mark in local communities and are a driving force behind governmental progress.

“I was in Ghana attending a climate change conference and when this announcement was done I didn’t have an iota of imagination that I could be in such a distinguished roll. I learnt of it in a peculiar way people were greeting me…congratulating me on the accomplishment. That’s when I learnt that I was in the same league with top celebrities, religious leaders and politicians in the world. It is still a humbling recognition,” Mwenda said.

Mwenda, who comes from Meru County said he has dedicated the last decade in building PACJA since a small group of people met at Johannesburg’s suburb of Sandton, South Africa in 2008 and expressed desire to have a unified platform on climate change and environment in Africa.

“It has been a fulfilling journey, a journey of ups and downs but we eventually arrived where we wanted. Am happy I have contributed, together with my colleagues and partners across the continent, the most formidable environmental movement in Africa. We most of more than 1000 organisations in 48 countries,” Mwenda said.

He said Kenya can be considered a first mover in matters climate change and a pacesetter in policies to address the scourge.

“It became the first country in Africa to enact the most comprehensive law on climate change, the Climate Change Act, 2016 which was signed by President Kenyatta in May 2016,” he said.  

Mwenda said the law puts in place a framework which defines actions to be undertaken by stakeholders to mainstream climate change in the entire political economy of the country.

“In addition, several Policies to mainstream the problem have been put in place, including the National Climate Change Action Plan 2018 – 2022. There is also the National Adaptation Plan, the National Green Economy Implementation Strategy, among others,” Mwenda said.

He revealed that he and PACJA have played a key role in helping the Kenya government draft climate change legislation.

“Together with some colleagues, we reached out to former Bureti MP Franklin Bett, in the 9th Parliament to come up with a Private member’s Bill on climate change, which evolved into the Climate Change Act, 2016. I can confidently say that this Law was mainly driven by civil society and MPs,” he said.

He observed that the Ministry of Environment which coordinates issues related to climate change was initially hesitant to participate in the discussions around the law, but could not resist the momentum built through the mobilization which followed.

“Though the ministry eventually took charge of the process, am happy that we catalyzed a process which gave Kenya accolades in international arena. I also acknowledge the effort by other former MPs such as Rachel Shebesh, Uasin Gishu Senator Prof Margret Kamar, former Emuhaya MP and Vihiga Governor Dr Wilbur Otichillo and North Horr Chachu Ganya for working with us to ensure the law received overwhelming support inParliament. It was not an easy journey, though. I remember many interests stood on the path against us, and that is why it took almost 10 years to achieve,” Mwenda said.  

But he acknowledged that it is one thing in signing and adopting international agreements like the historic 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, and another thing altogether in implementing such Agreements.

“I want to be brutally honest: Kenya is very good in policies, including international ones, but very poor in implementation,” Mwenda said.

He observed that all countries have submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN body mandated to coordinate climate action, their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

“These are sets of actions all countries were required to undertake as their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The guidelines for the NDCs implementation were finally agreed during the annual conference of countries in Poland last year,” he said.

But the biggest challenge, he noted, for this ambitious effort is money required to undertake such actions.

“Kenya, for instance, has estimated that it will require around Sh40 trillion till 2030 to meet its obligations. Definitely it will require massive donor support, which may not be forthcoming. The World Leaders will be meeting on 23rd September this year in New York to discuss how to raise resources to support climate action in the world. The issue remains emotive, and it has divided the world on who should carry this burden,” Mwenda said.

He added that asany other African country, Kenya’s carbon footprint is very negligible compared to that of industrialized countries. As per the Paris Agreement, however, Kenya has committed to pursue a low-carbon, climate-resilient green economic development pathway. Through this, the government of Kenya will reduce its emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

“The challenge here is that massive resources which exceeds the ability of Kenya are required. I doubt whether the Donors will be able to provide all the trillions of money required to meet this ambition. That’s why creativity is required, including roping in the private sector as they are both culprits in pollution while at the same time they can provide solutions,” he said.

He called on African countries to strengthen their voice in international negotiations to ensure they get the best bargain for their people in decisions made at various levels, adding that they should resist fragmentation by interested parties who do not what to meet their obligations.

He also observed that during the “One Planet Summit” hosted by Presidents Uhuru Kenyattaand France’s Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the fourth Session of UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi last month, Uhuru committed himself to increase the forest cover to 10 per cent by 2022.

“A marshall plan is required to achieve this ambition, otherwise it will be another proclamation without action. Uhuru should go beyond the government to achieve his dream. The civil society, communities and private sector should be incentivized to become partners of this effort,” Mwenda said.

Acknowledging that communities are custodians of forests and their resources, any effort to preserve or protect forests which doesn’t involve communities will be a cropper.

“But this is the current scenario. In paper we have very interesting policies to manage our forests, but the reality on the ground paints a picture of periodic conflicts with communities as the Kenya Forest Service, which bothers more about trees than the people who live with these trees. We need people to have ownership and pride in their ecosystem,” he said.

He said the unpredictable weather patterns-long dry spells will remain with Kenyans for the foreseeable future, based on authoritative scientific evidence, particularly the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UPCC).

“Kenya should integrate climate change into all its development strategies, notably the Vision 2030, Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda, National Climate Change Action Plan 2018 – 2022. Counties are currently aligning their CIDPs with the National Policies. So much is going on, but much more need to be done,” Mwenda said.

Last year, Mwenda said, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) through the African Environmental Partnership Platform (AEPP) named PACJA as the top environmental policy organization in Africa.

“This was a personal achievement. In addition, I was elected to Chair the Institutional Collaboration Platform (ICP) of the Climate Research for Development in Africa (CR4D), spearheaded by African Union, World Meteorological Organisation, UN Economic Commission for Africa, among other Institutions. Such humbling call for duty is quite an achievement for me,” Mwenda said.

Mwenda is also the Southern Civil Society Observer to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility of the World Bank, and recently, joined a global committee for the “United for Climate Justice”, a mobilization initiative driven by both governments and CSOs to advance the narrative of climate justice during the UN Secretary General’s Summit in New York later in the year.

He was actively involved in pro-democracy and governance movement that was agitating for expanded democracy in his country, which engineered the promulgation of one of the most celebrated people-driven Constitutions in the world in 2010.

He studied in Moi University where he was a student leader, before joining Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology for post-graduate studies in Public Policy Analysis. He is now pursuing his PhD with the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

In 2016, the influential Pan African Magazine, Le Afrique, named him among the top 50 African Intellectuals due to his contribution to climate policy discourses in the continent.
__________________________

Some of the powerful names on the list:
1.    Alexandria Ocasio - Cortez- Congresswoman, US Congress
2.    Pope Francis- Head, The Roman Catholic Church
3.    Saleemul Huq- Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development
4.    Xie Zhenhua- Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs, National Development and Reform Commission, China
5.    Autumn Peltier- Clean Water Activist
6.    Jamie Margolin- Founder, Zero Hour
7.    Neeshad Shafi- Co- Founder, Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar
8.    Al Gore-Former Vice President, United States
9.    Bernie Sanders-Senator, US Congress
10.    Elizabeth May-Leader, Green Party of Canada
11.    Katharina Schulze- Politician, Alliance 90/The Greens party, Germany
12.    Mohammed Adjei Sowah- Mayor, City of Accra
13.    Sergio Bergman-Environment Minister, Argentina
14.    Gavin Schmidt-Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
15.    Gina McCarthy-Professor of the Practice of Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
16.    James Hansen-Professor, Columbia University
17.    Johan Rockstrom- Professor, Stockholm University
18.    Naomi Oreskes- Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University
19.    Michael Bloomberg-CEO, Bloomberg LP
20.    Patricia Espinosa- Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

 

OPINION

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) – As President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the 2019 Kenya’s State of the Nation Address, he failed to acknowledge a fact that some pastoralist communities were starving due to tough climatic conditions, and also he did not talk about any kind of future intervention to protect livestock in those counties.

Despite the little attention it gets, the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) reports that the livestock sub-sector contributes over 30 percent of the farm-gate value of agricultural commodities, about 10 percent of the national GDP and at least 50 percent of the agricultural GDP, thereby employing about 50 percent of the total agricultural labour force.

Indeed, the Kenyan president has put food and nutrition security as part of the Big4 Agenda. However, this may not come to pass if nearly all the investment is to be directed to crop production without investing substantially in livestock, especially among pastoral communities who bear the brunt of climate change.

Livestock remains the main source of livelihoods for millions of residents in Arid and Semi Arid Land (Asal) communities. These communities feed the 6 million Nairobians with meat every day, whether at the household level or nyama choma in thousands of social joints sprawling across the city and its environs.

It therefore means that if the sub-sector was given just a little attention to make it climate smart, and to ensure proper control of emerging pests and diseases, then nobody will die of hunger within the pastoral communities, and the country will possibly earn billions every year from the export market.

There are a number of climate smart techniques, of which, if scaled up especially at the county level, then starvation in pastoral communities will become a thing of the past.

First, pastoralists need not to rare cattle, but instead, they should be producing cattle. However, this can only happen if county governments or private investors invested in feedlots or feed yard, which is a type of animal feeding operation that is used in intensive animal farming for finishing livestock, notably beef cattle, but also swine, horses, sheep, turkeys, chickens or ducks, prior to slaughter.

In feedlots, the animals are not given grass. They are fed on dry protein rich feeds often made of sunflower cakes, barley, soybeans, dried Lucerne grass among others, and water.

One acre feedlot for example, can accommodate up to 500 mature cattle, and all of them can be served by two or three people. With protein rich feeds, an animal that was received with say 200 Kilogrammes can easily double it to 400 or even 450 Kilogrammes in just 90 days, depending on its genetic make-up.

With this system, pastoralists can now concentrate on keeping animals that can produce calves to be sold to feedlots at an early stage for finishing instead of raring them, then losing them to drought thereafter. This will reduce the population of animals in the rangelands, thereby availing enough pastures for the remaining productive animals.

Botwana is one of the African countries that have tried this climate smart livestock keeping technique, and today, the country’s livestock production accounts for 80 percent of the agricultural sector’s output.

Kenya can do even better because we have 23 Asal counties, which constitute about 88 percent of the country’s land mass. These counties are predominantly pastoral with very limited or sometimes no crop farming.

Once such feedlot structures are in place, it will become easier for county governments to invest in improved genetics of fast maturing livestock for quick income generation.

Another way of doing it is by investment in conservational utilization of pastures, where rangelands and ranches are subdivided, to allow grazing in one area, while others regenerate.

As well, instead of waiting until it is too late, it is also possible to invest in commercial feeds to supplement pastures in the rangelands. Experts have always said that in case of droughts, intervention at the livestock level before they start dying is always cheaper than giving food aid to already malnourished population, whose animals are already dead.

So, when we talk of climate smart agriculture, we should also think of climate smart pastoralism.

 Isaiah Esipisu is the Continental Coordinator – PAMACC

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