Prioritise climate change

A vulture feeds on the carcass of a sheep in Dukana, Marsabit in February 2017. PHOTO | IRENE MWENDWA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Many parts of Kenya do not have as much rain as they used to.
  • Rain has not only reduced both in volume and frequency, it has become erratic and destructive.

"Vindu vichenjanga” (things do change) has become a popular catchphrase on the election campaign trail as politicians from different parties seek to energise their supporters and gain advantage over their rivals. It is, indeed, an exciting season with barely two weeks to the General Election.

Yes, things do change. And things are changing. If you want to confirm this, look around you. Many parts of Kenya do not have as much rain as they used to. Rain has not only reduced both in volume and frequency, it has become erratic and destructive.


I recently met a friend from Kajiado, a largely rural county famed for its rich Maasai culture and nomadic lifestyle. What he told was both painful and spine-chilling. There have been no significant rains for the last two years. As a result, pasture has diminished and water has become scarce and costly. For a region that depends on livestock for basic survival, this could soon become an emergency (if it is not already) unless the rains come very soon. As Kajiado struggles to find water and pasture, the entire nation is facing a serious food deficit, which forced the government to import maize, which it has been selling to millers at subsidised rates so that Kenyans can get maize flour at affordable prices. But even so, it has not been enough. The shortage has been blamed partly on prolonged drought, which led to massive crop failures. And when the North Rift, known for large-scale maize production was starting to recover, there was an invasion by armyworms, which put paid to farmers’ hopes of turning a new leaf after a disappointing season. Something is changing and I am afraid, we are not giving it the attention it deserves. I have not heard politicians put enough emphasis on the impending crisis.


There is consensus that the rapid rise in global temperatures over the past one hundred years has been a result of increased use of fossil fuels, particularly in the industrialised North. Fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, also known as heat-trapping gases. The gases trap heat within the atmosphere leading to a general warming of the earth. The impacts include rising sea levels; severe storms, floods and destructive rain and droughts.


The impacts on agriculture, fishing, pastoralism and tourism have been debated for decades. Much less talked about is the impact of climate change on national and global security. And while climate change itself won’t directly lead to spiralling insecurity, rising sea levels rendering island and coastal dwellings uninhabitable, biting shortage of water, dwindling pasture for pastoral communities and general scarcity of resources will lead to tension within and among communities. Although there is no shortage of climate change deniers, including some powerful governments, there is overwhelming scientific evidence. It is time to commit resources, skills and leadership to adaptation and mitigation measures. Climate change waits for no man. Neither should we.

Mitigation involves science, technology, innovation and policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the risk of climate on human life and ecosystems. Adaptation refers to our ability to withstand the impacts. It can be about developing better coping mechanisms or turning some negatives into opportunities. The challenge to the national and county governments and businesses is to prioritise climate change when resources could have been spent elsewhere. We have to do it now to save our communities and nations. The alternative is too grim a prospect.

Karin Boomsma is project coordinator, Sustainable Inclusive Business Kenya.