The anticipated Rio Olympic games 2016 was tainted with the environmental issue in Brazil and has sparked a worldwide interest on climate change. During the opening ceremony at the Olympics, a part was dedicated to climate change where the dangers of sea were discussed[i]. It was deemed fitting after the Paris convention set a limit to global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Home in my country Kenya, the story is no different as the weather patterns have changed to greater level leading to either high temperature in some parts of the country while other parts experiencing heavy rainfall that comes with dangerous floods.
High temperatures and lack of rainfall in West Pokot county of North Rift has led to the damaging of crops due to lack of water available to the plants. This has affected maize crops in most parts of the county. This has also caused the extreme heat stress in crops, which has limited yields because they occur during certain times of the plants’ life-cycle (pollination, pod or fruit set). Also, heat waves resulted in wilted plants (due to elevated transpiration rates) which caused yield loss. This year, there has been the existence of strong winds in the whole of the Trans Nzoia county which has brought about the damaging of the crops especially leaf and limb damage as well as “sandblasting” of the soil against foliage. Heavy floods by river Nzoia and river Sabwani which are the main rivers which pass through the county poses a threat to the life of both people and crops. This year it was flooded hence it was also detrimental to crops and soil structure. Most maize crops cannot survive in prolonged waterlogged conditions because the roots need to breathe. The floods also affected the other crop such as sweet potatoes, cassavas, millets, green vegetables and sorghum which are grown mostly by small scale farmers. This catastrophic effect of climate change eroded fertile top soil from prime growing areas, resulting in irreversible habitat damage. In the month of June this year,heavy winds combined with rain led to damaging of houses, barns, falling of trees and other factors involved in production of maize/agriculture.
This has also affected the dairy farming in the county. Animals are even more susceptible to climate change just like crops. While crops could be impacted by climate change, it is likely that animals would be even more susceptible to changes in the climate. Due to increased temperature in the area, there is a common dangerous animal disease in the region referred to as East Coast Fever(ECF) which has claimed the lives of many livestock in the county.
Insect parasites and diseases have become more prolific as global warming progresses. New diseases have also emerged in the whole region of West Pokot areas of North Rift that were once considered to inhabit only tropical areas. In the wake of increased heat stress and humidity, most livestock farmer’s majority of whom are small scale have been unable to fight these diseases without the use of costly medicines. It has affected the milk production which is also a source of income among many small scale farmers. This has prompted the increased milk prices due to the demand for it thereby contributing to the Food Price Volatility in the county. My poor family which sometimes fails to buy milk are forced to go without milk for long time due to the inability to afford. All this is because of climate change.
The increased air temperatures have caused more stress on livestock. Both humans and livestock are warm-blooded animals, so both are affected by increased heat and humidity. During stifling heat, livestock reproduction has declined as well as their appetite. Decreased appetite has lengthened the time needed for the livestock to reach their target weight; the reason is that I have observed in my cattle farm where most cows only eat about half of normal quantities when they are heat-stressed. Stress has also increased the incidence of sickness, decrease rates of reproduction, and increase fighting among animals in confinement. In some areas especially near Kitale town of Trans-Nzoia county, night-time temperatures are even more above average than daytime temperatures during heat-waves, which has resulted in increased mortality rates. This is due to emission of gases from the industries in the town that has increased the global warming thereby putting a very big negative impact upon livestock production.
I also wish to note that the increased emission of carbon dioxide among other poisonous gases emitted from the nearby industry has resulted in feed and forage that is less nutritious even if there is more of it. In my own village of Moi Farm and even the entire county, the poor small scale growers in the area are sometimes forced to use additives in order to see the expected growth grains in livestock and also to avoid illnesses. This increased cost to the grower has resulted in the increased food costs to the consumers. In some areas of the county like Kapkoi village, lack of water has affected the availability and farmers have a challenge of keeping up with the plant growth. This is in turn has also contributed to increased food prices in the county.
The County governments in these two counties of Trans Nzoia and West Pokot, are not doing enough in handling the matters of climate change as many projects are geared towards politics at the expense of the real problems facing the communities living in this county. The recently signed Paris Agreement on Climate Change has not been brought to the people of this part of Kenya and hence none of them is aware of the content of the agreement. Heavy rains that poured on the land on the month of May caused the flooding of River Nzoia which destroyed more than 67 houses.
Photo courtesy of the Citizen tv News
Four members of one family died in the process while 55 others were displaced and sustained serious health problems caused by dirty heavy water[ii] The careless dumping of chemical wastes has caused a serious health problems among the people of my community, for instance there was an unfamiliar skin diseases that was as a result of one touching and coming in contact with those wastes. I came face to face with the effects of climate change, a personal experience that has been part of my painfull memories when all my crops and cows were swept away by heavy floods that flooded the Sabwani River in the month of May 2016.Photo courtesy of The star newspaper
It is therefore very important to maintain the global earth temperature below 1.5degrees Celsius as this ensures deep reductions in global gas(net) emissions[iii]. It is time to implement and commit to higher ambition in mitigation. The world needs to act now.
BY CHEKAI MOSES
Human Rights Activist
Deputy Speaker of Bunge la Mwananchi (People’s parliament)
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