Climate change talk should move to the grassroots

President William Ruto leads African leaders to the venue of Africa Climate Summit at KICC, Nairobi, on August 5.

Photo credit: PCS

The other day, we were amused when one legislator gave an incohesive description about climate change and the then ongoing discussions at the Africa Climate Summit. While that offered comic relief during the climate discussions, it pointed to a bigger issue: do the masses really understand what climate change is all about and their role in mitigating it?

Climate change is no longer a distant threat; it's an urgent global crisis that affects us all.  In Kenya, its effects, such as erratic weather patterns, prolonged droughts, and rising temperatures, have already begun to affect our lives and livelihoods. Yet, there remains a glaring gap in understanding this complex issue among the general population. 

In a nation where livelihoods and economic stability are closely tied to the environment, it is imperative that we bridge this knowledge gap and empower the masses to become active participants in the fight against climate change. Communicating the realities of climate change can help the masses understand the need for adaptation and resilience-building measures.

Climate change can have severe economic consequences, particularly for those engaged in agriculture and small-scale businesses, where many Kenyans fall. By communicating these economic implications, we can encourage grassroots communities to explore climate-resilient livelihood options such as beekeeping, agroforestry, and eco-tourism.

Public engagement

But, there is hope. A 2022 peer-reviewed study published in the Thinking and Reasoning Journal showed that communicating the human causes of global warming increases public engagement. We should, therefore, keep talking about climate change and environmental issues and on-board as many people as possible.

To effectively communicate with the grassroots, messages should be delivered in local languages and tailored to the cultural context of each community using examples and stories of what matters most to them.  Make the stories relatable, local, and personal to ensure that the information is easily understood and relevant. These messages can be best delivered using community-based organisations as they are trusted intermediaries. They will help disseminate information and organise awareness campaigns. This will encourage grassroots communities to actively participate in decision-making processes related to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Information centres

While at it, improve access to relevant information by setting up community information centres, providing access to weather forecasts, and disseminating educational materials through local radio and TV stations.   Use visual aids such as charts, diagrams, and videos, which can simplify complex concepts related to climate change and the environment.

Effective communication strategies that consider the unique needs and challenges of individual communities are essential to creating awareness and inspiring action.  By bridging the gap and engaging the grassroots, we can work together to mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect Kenya's environment for future generations.

Ms Ronoh-Waweru is a strategic communications specialist working in the environmental sector.