Community radios join forces to mitigate climate change effects

A man in Bunyala North, Budalang'i constituency walks away with his child from a submerged house. He is among the 159 households that have been affected by floods from the swollen River Nzoia following heavy rains. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Agnes Odongo is a farmer along the banks of River Yala in Western Kenya.

She is counting losses after the river burst its banks and swept away crops worth thousands of shillings.

She had planted sukuma wiki, watermelons, onions, and tomatoes, which were destroyed by the raging floods, which also swept away her maize plantation and livestock.

“Our maize plantation and animals were also swept away. That was our main source of livelihood.  The biggest concern now is our already flooded homes, we risk being rendered homeless if the heavy rains will continue pounding in the area,” said Ms Odongo

Besides the Yala flash floods, about 2,500 people have since been displaced by floods that hit Nyando, Nyakach, and Muhoroni areas after River Nyando broke its banks.

A similar scenario is expected among the residents living around the banks of Nzoia River as the water levels continue rising.

As a result of climate change, the increased frequency and intensity of flash floods and other disasters like prolonged drought seasons and fires have seen rural communities adversely affected since they don’t have the resilience and capacity to adapt to disasters.

This poses a serious threat to the country’s sustainable development goals. Against the backdrop, at least 16 community radio stations are working in partnership with the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and Deutsche Welle Akademie have joined hands to mitigate the climate change crisis.

Under the banner ‘Grand Wave Consortium’, they want to use radio as a medium of sensitising communities to adapt to the effects of climate change through provision of accurate information.

“Community radio stations reach huge audiences and we want to take advantage of broadcasting in specific dialects to reach many people,” said Lilian Mukoche from Mmust FM and the Grand Wave Consortium chairperson.

“Our main focus is to sensitise our audiences on issues that affect them, locally and globally. Climate Change is top on the list for it is a global crisis and is hitting everyone. Leaders, governments and other stakeholders are in dilemma wondering what to do and this calls for serious interventions,” she said. 

Besides Mmust FM, other radio stations are Upendo FM, Sayare FM, Pwani FM, Gulf Radio, Radio Mitume, Radio Nam Lolwe, and KBC Kisumu. Others are Sky FM, Radio Lake Victoria, Sauti Ya Pwani, Radio Amani, Echami FM, Lake Region Bulletin, Vihiga FM and Radio Kaya.

“Meteorologists and environmental experts talk in a jargon that people from the rural areas cannot understand. You will hear them talking about greenhouse gas emissions, ecological degradation and the rise in earth’s temperature which can sometimes be too academic,” said Mukoche.

She added: “We have agreed to embrace music concerts and use them to convey messages on sustainability and climate mitigation actions. We also want to tell stories and start programs that are tailor-made to address the creation of awareness on the global climate crisis,”

Mukoche said they are reaching out to many youths to join the campaign and help in planting more trees in support of the government’s agenda of planting 15 million trees in the next five years as well as help them come up with innovations and inventions to tackle climate change.

Doreen Auma, has been displaced from her home in Budalang’i together with families from 159 households, has been recruited by the as a climate change champion to represent Budalang’i rice farmers by the Grand Wave Consortium. Her major role will be to create awareness in the community on climate mitigation measures.

“My six-acre maize farm, four cows and fifty-three layers has been washed away by the flash floods and this is a very big loss to me. Since we camped at primary school, getting food to eat has been a challenge and we rely on well-wishers. We don’t know when we will go back to our homesteads,” said Ms Auma

“We don’t get regular information on the changing weather patterns so that we can prepare ourselves in advance,” said Auma.

 Auma, who for the last three consecutive years has lived in a temporary camp whenever flash floods wreak havoc, says lack of proper information for their suffering.

Teddy Evans, the MCK Western regional coordinator, said that government agencies should partner with youth groups to help in implementing climate action activities.

“Climate change is one of the most critical global challenges of our times. It affects resources that are critical to sustainable development. It’s also an individual responsibility to contribute to climate change action,” Evans said  

Kenia Eckertz from the German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development said they will support the stations in creating awareness of climate change mitigation action.

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