By David Kigochi
President Uhuru Kenyatta has challenged fellow world leaders to pursue climate change adaptation and mitigation measures that secure people’s livelihoods and expand economic opportunities. He was emphatic that sustainable climate action is largely about people and their livelihoods adding that no one should be left behind in efforts to combat climate change.
As Farmers Party, we are concerned about the growing humanitarian needs following months of droughts in parts of Kenya. At the beginning of September, the president declared the drought a national disaster following a national rainfall report. Due to the poor rainfall and low crop production, 2.1 million Kenyans are facing acute food insecurity in the next 6 months.
This drought is reminiscent of the great famine of 2011 – we are very concerned about the growing humanitarian needs as people move out of the hometowns in search of places closer to water sources. Livestock are dying and men, women and children are going hungry and thirsty. Across the eastern and southern parts of the country the rains received were as little as 51% of what is expected.
Lamu, Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Kilifi and Taita Taveta counties received amounts that were as little as 26% of normal rainfall. Turkana and Garissa are both refugee-hosting counties which put the already vulnerable refugee population at further risk given planned closure of the camps in May 2022.
Many people living in these areas rely heavily on crops as a source of nutrition and livelihoods, and the droughts have resulted in below-average crop production. Household stocks are up to 66% below average for all crops. And this is worse in the coastal region.
High food prices coupled with declining livestock prices have impacted negatively on households’ ability to buy basic necessities. Earlier than normal migration of up to 60% of livestock mainly in search of pasture and water has intensified insecurity and conflict as well as high risk of livestock diseases.
Climate change is the main driver of the erratic and recurring droughts, and has been partly attributed to the recent locust outbreaks in East Africa, causing widespread food insecurity. Climate change also contributes to poor health outcomes.
Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are likely to exacerbate the spread of vector-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria. Lack of access to clean water will lead to higher incidence of diarrhea, a major cause of death for children under 5. Coupled with the destruction of fragile ecosystems, the changing climate has a profound impact on the occurrence of viruses like COVID-19 that emerge from animals.
We must prepare for future climate emergencies, with communities given financial support and decision-making power. Local leaders, smallholder farmers and livestock herders already have the knowledge and experience necessary to confront this crisis.
Future response to climate change must also be feminist, recognising the unique and disproportionate ways women are impacted. As farmers, carers or activists, women (and women-led organizations) are central to food security and effective climate change mitigation.
A secure aid budget – fulfilled in line with the internationally endorsed target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) – and risk-informed financing that can be quickly deployed, is critical to mitigating the impact of future shocks.
Investing now to tackle hunger and food insecurity resulting from climate shocks will save time, money and lives in the long run. We are in urgent need of funding to be able to meet basic humanitarian needs and mitigate the impact of future shocks.
This level of investment together with anticipated commitments to reshape commodity value chains are key to addressing the underlying drivers of deforestation. In Kenya, farmers work in forest landscapes across the country, and demonstrate how integrated landscape approaches can deliver for people and nature through inclusive, market-oriented approaches.
President Kenyatta’s announcement that Kenya plans to work with African countries that form the ‘Giants Club’ conservation group to raise resources for investment in the continent’s climate change mitigation programmes needs support from all and sundry.
We believe this will create opportunities for the private sector to invest in the restoration of Africa’s carbon sinks including forests, and ensure that Governments and host communities reap maximum benefits from climate change mitigation interventions.
Restoring Africa’s carbon sinks would help the continent generate jobs and business opportunities for her people besides ending illegal wildlife trade and related crimes. It will also drive enterprises away from destructive forms of land use, can help us tackle poverty and also prevent future pandemics, and ensure that the diversity of life on which we all depend continues to endure.
As a sure route to guarantee food security for Kenyans, the country’s forest conservation initiatives should entail an ambitious strategy that will see it set up a US$5 billion tree fund besides planting an additional two billion trees among other interventions.
We equally appreciate the government for its leading role in climate change adaptation efforts in Africa especially in the uptake of renewable energy citing the 310MW Lake Turkana Wind Power as a game changer.David Kigochi is the Leader, Farmers Party.