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Renewable energy key to boosting agriculture

 Droughts caused by climate change and rising food prices due to a fossil fuel-reliant energy system have forced more and more people to become dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic survival needs. [iStockphoto]

Climate change is no longer a story of when or how. The crisis is with us now, and every community and sector of the economy is feeling the devastating impacts of the climate crisis.

Despite decades of calls to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and transition to clean energy sources, such as solar and wind, countries continue to use coal, oil and gas to fuel their economies.  Not only does this mean that carbon emissions have been increasing at an alarming rate, but our food system has become very intertwined with the fossil fuel system.

This means that not only is the security of our food systems extremely vulnerable to weather events caused by the burning of fossil fuels, but it is also deeply impacted by the skyrocketing costs of fossil fuels like oil and gas.

This has real and terrifying consequences. Across East Africa, the World Food Programme says millions of people across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia urgently need food assistance. Droughts caused by climate change and rising food prices due to a fossil fuel-reliant energy system have forced more and more people to become dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic survival needs. 

Systemic change must take place if we are to address the climate crisis. Changes can be made so that not only do we adapt, but eventually create a brighter future for our country and planet. Kenya is a country in a prime position to do this.

President Dr William Ruto recognised this challenge and opportunity in a recent article in The Guardian, where he said: “We have immense potential for renewable energy, and this abundance of wind and solar energy can power the development of Africa… and embrace the benefits of clean power.”With COP27 in Egypt, less than a month away, the hope is that his rallying cry to other world leaders will be heard. 

Action must be taken to rapidly roll out renewable energy systems powered by solar, hydro and wind. We must also ensure that every citizen has access to it.

Energy access is most needed in remote, rural areas and among poverty-stricken communities.

They are some of those most threatened by climate change and in greatest need of adaptation support.

This clean energy revolution can drive climate change adaptation and strengthen food security by reinforcing homegrown agriculture through improved irrigation, cold storage and deploying fuel-efficient technologies across food systems.

This includes equipment that reduces post-harvest losses and preserves food quality, such as cooling technologies, solar dryers and milling and oil processing equipment. Solar-powered irrigation has the potential to drip-irrigate crops and reduce resources used in agricultural production for smallholder farmers.

With estimates that more than 40 per cent of food perishes before it reaches the consumer, solar-powered cold storage rooms can provide an effective and inclusive solution in off-grid areas through shared ownership, lease or “pay-per-use” business models.

For a typical farm in Kenya, the cost of irrigating one acre for five years using a solar pump is estimated at $3,000 (Sh330,000 – compared to $6,000 (Sh660,000) when using an equivalent diesel pump.