Growing up in the care of agriculturist parents, matters of agriculture and the environment always had a special place in my heart. Add this to knowledge acquired at the 4-K club in primary school and there was no way Agriculture was not going to be my best subject in high school, although I ended up opting for Accounting for my love for Mathematics.
Later, as a budding journalist, there was always this urge to push for a Science and Environment desk. In one of the sessions when I was invited to explain why, an editor asked what there was to say about the environment “anyway”.
I found myself responding with questions: “What do you eat? Where does the water you drink come from? Why is the government budgeting for drought? Why the crop failure…?”
Years later, after visiting families displaced by floods in Nyando, Kisumu County, when I asked what caused the flooding, many said God was angry at man’s sinfulness. They in fact sought God’s forgiveness. It is complicated, yet it should not really be. Unfortunately, many people genuinely lack knowledge on what causes their misery… like persistent drought or the kind of flooding that has killed 120 people in DR Congo this week.
When crop failure occurs due to unpredictable weather, importation of maize is inevitable and the controversial GMOs find their way to our tables. Besides, bad weather affects the nutritional value of crops, and even for livestock and poultry farmers, the quality of their breeds is never the best. Even as these happen, the national budget is forced to incorporate the provision of relief food and water in drought-stricken parts of the country among other measures to minimise losses for the affected families. Diseases affecting humans, crops and livestock come easy in certain extreme weather conditions and require more spending on pesticides, equipment and personnel to control them. Sometimes a country’s economy is so bruised courtesy of extreme weather events that borrowing internally or externally is justifiable. This money would be more useful in development. Yet it does not end there. There are several hidden effects of climate change whenever it touches agriculture. Inadequate food leads to hunger, a key contributor to malnutrition.
A body with no defence is an avenue for diseases, and before long health systems are shaken, and death lingers. Many are also those that are mentally disturbed when their source of livelihood is snatched by climate change and poverty is inevitable. In the long run, the effects of climate change on agriculture alone manifest in the general literacy of a people, depending on how many manage to study on an empty stomach for longer periods.
Some of the worst victims of climate change are also the energy poorest. It takes sheer grit for children from families condemned to climate-driven poverty to shine, starting with national examinations. Climate change affects every aspect of our lives in complex ways, and if not acknowledged, even a response may not be timely or appropriate.
Without the proper knowledge, locally-led climate action may not be maximised. We must teach communities in rural and urban areas how climate change affects different aspects of their lives.
When people understand the problem, they will make better choices, and drive the change needed. Let’s start by telling Kenyans that climate change is not a UN and boardroom problem. It is right in here.
The writer is communications manager at GreenFaith. [email protected]
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