Victims of fossil fuel damage deserve payment

Fossil fuel burning. Ecological catastrophe. [iStockphoto]

This week, I went to the countryside and experienced flooding first-hand. It was late evening and a friend offered to drop me home.

Trouble started 10m off the rough road, some 90m from our destination. The car got stuck in the slippery wet black cotton soil, and even the mud bath that Good Samaritans suffered in an effort to help us comfortably get home did not bear fruit.

The car had to be pushed back to the rough road. We, in wrong shoes, walked the rest of the muddy distance home, my many pieces of luggage in hand and a mesmerized guest in tow. Still, I had to part with some money for obvious reasons.

Once home, it began to rain so heavily that a man who had sought shelter in our home was unable to leave. The next day it rained so heavily that locking myself indoors became the better option. And so I wasted the day. Another day later, I saw in nearby farms crops destroyed by the previous night’s running flood water. There were also water logged farms with unpromising crops, possibly a result of poor timing and the unpredictable rain patterns. The crops, mainly sorghum, did not flower in time.

With floods in many African countries, including the East African region, many small-holder farmer families stare at food scarcity. Add this to inflation, preexisting high levels of poverty, likelihood of army-worm invasion plus crops and livestock diseases that thrive in floods, and you have a good recipe for disaster.

Just the other day the Horn of Africa was reeling from severe drought, which worsened food security, cross-border and inter-clan relations, and climate-induced conflict and migration, sometimes with casualties. Nobody compensates victims.

Smallholder farmers, who hugely contribute to stability of agriculture, food, livestock and fisheries sectors, were some of the worst hit in the losses of up to $3.7 billion following the 2022 Pakistan floods, according to reports that informed the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment. While no country has recently matched Pakistanis’ suffering (33 million people affected and 8 million displaced), losses due to extreme weather affect people at individual and communal levels, though rarely documented.

Many leave it to “God” when they lose livestock, loved ones, crops, property and sources of livelihood, then try again another day. But there are the unseen long-term repercussions of such weather events, including mental health, stunted economic growth, and general sense of dejectedness, which minimizes resilience.

Unlike big businesses, the most vulnerable populations, their property and businesses are not insured. Even if they wanted, they simply would not afford it. In a continent where over 95 per cent of food production is rain-fed, these extreme weather events risk more lives. Yet after every acute drought, floods follow. Now, more than ever, campaigns for alternative adaptive crops must intensify. To date, even where loss is imminent, farmers in my village always plant sorghum.

The bigger solution however lies at the source of the problem. It involves decisive shift from any activities that exacerbate global warming. The COP-28 President Al Jaber has just expressed need to consider fossil fuels to address energy poverty, yet there are unexploited cleaner options with potential for good return on investment. This is retrogressive.

Finally, victims need to blame real culprits such as TotalEnergies, banks and insurers choosing new fossil fuel projects in this day and era. It is never “serikali” alone. There must be compensation for fossil fuel caused loss and damage. It is only fair.

-The writer is communications manager at GreenFaith @lynno16 | [email protected]