Reality of climate change now hits Busia hard; report predicts doom

Adrian Okello, a victim of the climate crisis, shows some of his rental houses at Mau Mau shopping centre in Budalang’i. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Adrian Okello Dero never took climate change seriously until his rental houses at Mau Mau in Busia County were marooned due to Lake Victoria back-flow. Since April 2020, the lake that overflowed, extending its shores by up to 5km marooned Mau Mau town in Budalang’i Constituency. Residents had to seek refuge elsewhere.

“My rental houses and home are surrounded by River Yala to the South, River Nzoia to the North and Lake Victoria to the West. The flooding we are experiencing is from the back-flow in Lake Victoria,” he said.

Dero has since moved to higher ground and is among the 7,000 households impacted by climate-related risks in Budalang’i Sub-county, according to Red Cross.

This comes even as the World Bank predicts mass exodus of people across the Lake Victoria basin region by 2030 if measures to stem climate change are not quickly put in place.

Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda are among 54 African countries that contribute only 4 per cent of carbon emission globally.

The World Bank’s new Groundswell Africa reports, released in October, however, says Africa will suffer hardest by climate change, with up to 86 million Africans migrating within their own countries by 2050. About 38.5 million will migrate within the Lake Victoria Basin countries. 

“Amid drought, a young family in Burundi must decide whether they will be better off staying at their home to farm the family plot or if they take the risk to search for better opportunities elsewhere. A farmer in Tanzania knows he must leave, but is deciding whether to look for other farmland or move to the city in search of new work,” says Hafez Ghanem, World Bank Vice President Africa East and Southern Region.

He added: “In Uganda, a mother that lacks safe drinking water also lacks the money to move, and will stay put despite the health risks. In Rwanda, engineers are redesigning city streets to make them less prone to flooding and overcrowding amid an influx of newcomers. These are some of the decisions facing people in the Lake Victoria Basin as climate change impacts communities.”

The report says the ongoing weather patterns where countries are experiencing a rise in temperatures, erratic rainfall, flooding, and coastal erosion are but an indication of unprecedented challenges in the future, which will spur the climate-induced-migrations.

Consequences of climate change like water scarcity, lower crop and ecosystem productivity, sea-level rise, and storm surge have been cited as factors that would lead people to move. The authors have indicated that some places will become less inhabitable because of heat stress, extreme events, and land loss.

“Other areas may become more attractive as a consequence of climate-induced changes, like increased rainfall,” says the report.

It is because of the above weather events that Africa has been pushing at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be considered a continent with special needs. At the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Africa also wants new and increased funds to be submitted by the biggest emitters of Greenhouse Gases (GHG)globally, to be directed to mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

At the COP26 meetings, the rich nations are saying the $100 billion yearly funds they were to be mobilising by 2020 will now be achieved by 2023. Many have described the COP26 talks as failed.

The authors of the World Bank report are, however, optimistic that efforts to support green, inclusive, and resilient development could reduce the scale of climate-induced migration by 30 per cent in the lake region and as much as 60 per cent in West Africa.

“Investments in resilience and adaptation can promote green industries, and when paired with investments in health, education, the digital economy, innovation, and sustainable infrastructure, they also have tremendous potential to create climate-smart jobs and boost economic growth,” said Ghanem.

The report says to stem the migrations in Africa, the global community has a responsibility to play to cut the GHG emissions, which will in effect reduce the scale of climate impacts.

African states on their own will also have to adopt internal climate mitigation and invest in research to better understand the drivers of internal climate mitigation for better climate policies.

As a result of the flooding in Busia’s Mau Mau since last year, the county has come up with a Climate Change wing to dwell on research in dealing with the harsh realities.

“We are just new in office and are studying the climate trend to come up with a sustained plan, seeing that climate change is real,” said Dan Opilo, who heads the Climate Change docket. “The comprehensive plan to deal with the climate emergency will be out son,” said Dr Opilo.

Head of research at Masinde Muliro University Peter Bukhala said the world looked despaired and helpless in the face of predictions about climate change. “Climate crisis is here with us, but I’m optimistic we can solve the problem in time to keep our planet livable for future generations,” said Prof Bukhala.

The university, on November 1, appointed Nicodemus Nyandiko to head the steering committee of a ‘Research Network on Displacement and Migration in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change for Africa’. 

The committee is expected to come up with practical and sustainable measures to deal with the climate emergency.

Dero, the man who was displaced by the flooding in Mau Mau, wishes that the State and researchers come up with the measures in good time to deal with the climate change crisis.

“I believe if the state built dams to curb the floods I could be collecting rent from my houses, which are underwater today,” he said.

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