Climate Change

Why warmer clothing is a sticky joke

By: Caroline Chebet

The earth is becoming warmer by day. The seasons are changing drastically and weather is almost becoming impossible to predict. The nights too are becoming hotter and investing on warmer clothing is becoming a sticky joke.

The good old days when old men could sit by the shed, sniffing tobacco in the afternoon and humming to the oldies under generous shades are becoming mere memories; nostalgia. Where mighty forests once stood, cattle, huts and crops compete for space. And the village springs of old, alas, are parched as old man’s loins.

Joseph Leboo, a Lembus elder, also a chairman of Lembus Council of elders in Baringo, terms the soaring temperatures, the erratic weather patterns and changing climates as a ‘self-inflicted’ wound that even prayers cannot fix. Even essentials of planting trees by the compound to bar ‘passers-by from peeping in the kitchen from the road’, he says, has been breached.

“How do we even pray when we caused all these? In close to eight decades which I have lived, these past few years have been worse — floods were intense last year, the rains are erratic this year and for the first time, one can count all the stones by the river. They are all bare, the rats can hop across and fish can feel the heat,” he says.

To him, destruction of forests is to blame and replacing of indigenous trees with exotic forest plantations ‘has robbed us of rain and drained the aquifers’, leaving behind a hungry, drier and hotter nation.

It is so bad that old men can no longer direct children to the furthest shop, spit on the ground and instruct them to be back before saliva dries up. Today, even saliva cannot touch down before the bare ground gulps it, the old man quips.

“It really is a worry, in the past decades, we used to plant and harvest without using fertilizers, or herbicides. The forests regulated climates and almost everyone could predict the weather unlike today where the land is becoming less productive and weather patterns harder to foigure out,” he said.

In their relentless fight to stop further destruction of Lembus forest, which is also part of the larger Mau forest Complex, Lembus Council of elders sued and won a historic case in 2013 that barred timber manufacturers and Kenya Forest Service from harvesting trees within the eight blocks of the Lembus forest.

Animal production expert and scientist Dr Samuel Mbuku said global warming is the reason for steady rise in the average temperatures of the earth. The climate, he says, is steadily changing as temperatures rise, and the earth becomes warmer.

“Global warming is here with us, a phenomenon that is being experienced across the world and an issue that is of great concern. The earth, has been constantly getting excessively warmer especially in the past three decades,” Dr Mbuku said.

Floods around the Country

1. Kainuk Bridge in Lodwar and Kitale road, which has been washed away by the raging floods. Photo Courtesy

2. Kainuk Bridge in Lodwar and Kitale road, which has been washed away by the raging floods.

3. Motorists drive along Uhuru Park in Nairobi on 15th March, 2018. Heavy downpour caused havoc to residents in the early morning hours.

4. Nairobian residents walk on flooded road along Kenyatta avenue in Nairobi city on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, PHOTO:EDWARD KIPLIMO.​

He said the rainfall patterns have been constantly changing, with seasons becoming harder to predict. There has also been increased humidity and increased wind speed, factors which he says confirms global warming and calls for action plan to combat the effects.

“This, currently is a global debate and areas adversely affected are Arid and Semi-arid areas which urgently need to adapt to Climate-Smart technologies to combat the changing climates,” Dr Mbuko said.

He said the high humidity being experienced impacts on crop and animal production, also reducing the yields in areas that historically were agriculturally rich, while also adversely affecting areas that are drier.

In arid and semi-arid areas, which is predominantly pastoral, pasture is becoming a challenge even as rainfall becomes more erratic. When it rains however, it pours and sink down quickly, also leaving behind a dry land.

“Scientists and researchers, not only in the Country, are working on a number of climate-smart technologies that will ease the response to changing climates among farmers and also boost production. The growing population require food, which is becoming scarce and that is why professionals too, are developing adaptation strategies that will help people cope with it,” he said.

Among the initiatives he recommends should be adopted include water harvesting-to last seasons when rains will be scarce and also adopt resilient livestock in ASAL areas. Reducing the large number of livestock, he adds, is another way to cope with the changing climates as feeds will become more scarce.

Planting crops that mature in a short period, he said, is also one of the adaptation strategies among farmers as well as afforestation initiatives. According to Solar Impulse Foundation, an international organisation offering solutions to climate change, the earth is steadily warming up as a result of increasing greenhouse gases, also changing climatic conditions.

“Each of the last three decades has been warmer than all previous decades since the beginning of the statistical surveys in 1885,” Solar Impulse Foundation noted. Cutting down of trees that primarily help regulate climate by absorbing carbon dioxide from atmosphere leads to increase of gases being released without absorption.

Intensive farming that incorporates a lot of pesticides herbicides and fertilizers also produce emissions are part of the larger list of activities that contributes to greenhouse gases.
Poor waste disposal, a common phenomenon in most of the Counties, researchers say, also contributes to greenhouse gases. Whereas burning and incineration of waste in a common in most dumpsites across the Country, these activities results in emission of toxic gasses, which too, lands in the atmosphere.

Dr Charles Mutai, director of Climate Change at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, climate-related disasters including floods and droughts are more frequent and their impacts adversely affecting economy in the country.

“With an economy that is dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, water, energy, tourism, wildlife, and health, the changes in the country’s climate were singled out as severe threats and adaptations need to be put in place,” Dr Mutai said.
Dr Mutai said most climate change-response actions aimed at increasing food security take place in the agriculture sector, including action relating to crops, livestock and fisheries.

According to the National Climate Change Action Plan 2018-2022, temperature rise spanned across all seasons, and rainfall patterns has changed. Climate change, as stated in the Action Plan, has increased the frequency and magnitude of extreme climate events in the Country, leading to loss of lives, reduced crop and livestock production, damaged infrastructure, among other adverse impacts.

The torrential rains that caused severe flooding witnessed from between March and May last year were singled out as events that devastated communities who are were then struggling to recover from a prolonged drought.
It is projected that climate change could negatively impact on crop yields in Kenya, with yield reductions of up to 45percent expected for maize, rice, and soybean crops by 2100, and yield losses of up to 40 per cent for tea and coffee. This, as noted in the plan, is as a result of reduction in suitable areas for cultivation, caused by temperature increases.

It is also projected that livestock numbers could decline as water resources become increasingly scarce. Dry weather conditions in 2017, as noted in the Action Plan, led to declines in the production of most agricultural commodities. Despite the area under tea production having been increased, tea production decreased by 7 percent in 2016 compared to 2017 while production of maize declined by 6.3 per cent the same year. Cattle being slaughtered and attributed to drought as farmers slaughtered to cushion themselves from losses rose by 5.3 in 2017.

The quantity of fish from fish farming decreased from 15,000 metric tonnes in 2016 to 12,000 metric tonnes in 2017, because farmers did not re-stock fish ponds due to high prices of inputs, and the drying up of ponds due to drought. The same year (2017), it is noted in the action plan that the prices of maize, sugar, rice, and milk hit record highs with the price of one kilogram of sugar increasing from an average Sh 118 in 2016 to Sh 138 in 2017.

“Pastoralists are negatively impacted because extreme climate events lead to reduced pasture and availability of forage, degradation of the environment, and increased poverty. Strong winds and dust storms erode top soil, making grass and rangeland regeneration difficult even when it rains,” part of the National Climate Change Action Plan read. Recurring droughts is noted to have forced an estimated 30per cent of livestock owners out of pastoralism in the past 20 years while the fishing communities report that increasing temperatures impact fish breeding and fish distribution.

Climate change is also causing storms and rougher seas, which prevents fisher communities from earning a living and obtaining fish for sustenance. Stakeholders noted that Sh 1.7Million will be required to deliver NCCAP 2018-2022. Sh 289,093 million will be required in the 2018/2019 financial year while Sh 408,424 million in the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

Sh 486 Million is planned for 2020/2021 fiscal year while Sh 352 Million will be used in the in the 2021/2022 financial year and Sh 248 million in the 2022/2023 fiscal year. Additionally, the Climate Change Directorate will require approximately Sh 350 million annually to ensure effective coordination and delivery 2018-2022 climate change Action Plan.

National Climate Change Action Plan

"Pastoralists are negatively impacted because extreme climate events lead to reduced pasture and availability of forage, degradation of the environment, and increased poverty. Strong winds and dust storms erode top soil, making grass and rangeland regeneration difficult even when it rains"

Dr. Mutai

“With an economy that is dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, water, energy, tourism, wildlife, and health, the changes in the country’s climate were singled out as severe threats and adaptations need to be put in place,”

Joseph Leboo

“It really is a worry, in the past decades, we used to plant and harvest without using fertilizers, or herbicides. The forests regulated climates and almost everyone could predict the weather unlike today where the land is becoming less productive and weather patterns harder to foigure out,”

Should we be worried?

Experts warn that the rise in global temperatures disturbs the environment, leading to loss of many species that are endemic to some places. If the temperatures rise, scientists say 20-30 percent of species that might not be able to put up with the rising temperatures will be extinct. On the other side, invasive species including army worms that threatens crops will manifest.

In the oceans, adaptability of sea shells or coral reefs are at stake as oceans will become more acidic.
And while climate change continues to wreak havoc on global economy, the scarcity of food, rising sea levels and floods is expected to cause conflicts as well as displace millions of people across the world if strategies are not put in place.

On weather, experts warn of more droughts, heat waves, more precipitations, natural disasters like floods, storms, hurricanes and wild fires.

Researchers, however roots for renewable energies like solar, wind, biomass and geothermal. Reducing of consumption of energy and water too, by using clean energy including light bulbs and using innovative shower system. Encouraging afforestation initiatives and adopting better ways of farming are also key.