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What can we “Somalis” learn from: Growth and climate go together

PHOTO | PHOEBE OKAL | FILE Nomadic pastoralism is under threat from drought and climate change. NATION MEDIA GROUP. – your gateway of Somali news around the world.


  • The famine cycle has shortened from 20 years in the period 1964-1984, to 12 years in 1984-1996, and now occurs almost yearly
  • More than 70 per cent of natural disasters in Kenya are related to extreme climate events
  • Climate variability influences the prevalence of communicable diseases such as malaria, cholera and tuberculosis

The Vision 2030 seeks to transform Kenya into a middle income country by 2030.

The take-off phase of this transformation is expected to be driven mainly by agriculture, tourism, and agro-based manufacturing. Additionally, realisation of the Vision is anchored on reliable energy, water, human capital and infrastructure.

All these sectors are sensitive to climate variability and change. Failure to recognise and address associated risks could therefore not only delay the promise of the Vision but also erode gains made in recent years. It is therefore important that climate change receives a fair share in the national debate.

The famine cycle has shortened from 20 years in the period 1964-1984, to 12 years in 1984-1996, and now occurs almost yearly. This has dramatic economic costs besides affecting the country’s food security.

For example, the cost of the 2008-2011 droughts was estimated at Sh968.6 billion and slowed economic growth by an average of 2.8 per cent annually.

More than 70 per cent of natural disasters in Kenya are related to extreme climate events. These hazards cause injuries and deaths to people and animals, loss of livelihoods, destruction of property and infrastructure and generally disrupt economic activities. As the climate changes, disasters spread to new areas that were initially not affected.

Rain-fed agriculture is the backbone of the economy. Unfavourable weather conditions during 2011 constrained growth in this sector to a mere 1.5 per cent, compared to 6.4 per cent in the previous year.

Delay in the onset of the planting season and an early start of the harvest are common phenomena. These conditions contribute to crop failure, post-harvest losses, and limit returns. As a result people are discouraged from engaging in agriculture.

Crop failure prompts food imports to fill the food deficits. In 2008-2009 alone, 2.6 million bags of maize were imported at a cost of 6.7 billion. Production of tea, coffee, sugarcane, wheat and vegetables has also been low further affecting exchange earnings.

About 84 per cent of Kenya is arid and semi-arid and holds more than 70 per cent of Kenya’s livestock. Pastoralism is the main livelihood activity in these areas and supplies the majority of the meat consumed in the country. Pastoralists are known to possess knowledge to cope with climate variability.

However, with climate change these strategies are overstretched forcing them to consider new but costly alternative livelihoods.

Migration patterns

Climate change influences migration patterns in the country. Traditionally, during severe droughts, pastoral communities used to move from one place to another in search of pasture and water.

They would then return to their home areas when conditions become better. With climate change the return-back period has been prolonged forcing some to take up permanent residence. People suffering repeated flooding and frequent crop failures also tend to move from rural to urban areas.

Tourism is another important sector in the Vision 2030. The sector fetched Sh97.9 billion in 2011 making it the largest foreign exchange earner.

The sector is based on wildlife resources found mainly in Kenya’s rangelands. Due to desertification and frequent and severe droughts, rangelands have receded at an alarming rate.

Because of temperature changes composition of plant species are modified, making the current protected areas unsuitable for wildlife.

This is a source of concern to the Kenya Wildlife Services for three main reasons. One, wildlife will be forced to wander outside the protected areas into settlements thereby intensifying human-wildlife conflicts. Two, there will be increased burden on conservation through provision of water and management of emerging diseases, and, three, combating invasive species on pasture resources will be costly.

Warming of the sea water causes sea level rise which threatens coastal beaches. Mombasa, Lamu, Malindi and Kilifi, are low-lying regions important to tourism.

These areas are at risk from sea level rise. About 17 per cent of Mombasa would be submerged with a 0.3 metres rise in sea level.

These places are a gateway to landlocked countries of Eastern Africa, so such impacts would be felt beyond the Coastal and national boundaries.

Areas around the Watamu and Sabaki river estuaries are also highly vulnerable. In addition, increased sea levels would result in inundation of coastal wetlands, erosion of shoreline, salinity and saline water intrusion into ground water resources as already witnessed in Lamu.

Climate variability influences the prevalence of communicable diseases such as malaria, cholera and tuberculosis. The 2012 Economic Survey reports that malaria was the major cause of death in 2011, responsible for 28,360 fatalities, followed by pneumonia, 23,915 and tuberculosis, 11,679 deaths.

Further, children born during a drought year have a higher likelihood of being malnourished by 50 percent. High incidences of malaria are caused by the spread of vectors into the highlands which are now warmer.

In rural areas climate change would increase the population at risk of malaria by 36 per cent to 89 per cent by 2050s. This will strain the already fragile health delivery system.

The government has invested heavily in infrastructure development such as roads, bridges, water supply and power lines. Flooding and landslides damage these investments and hinder movement of goods and services with perishable commodities worst affected. Additional funds would be needed to rehabilitate and protect this infrastructure.

Hydro-electric power

Hydro-electric power accounts for 50 per cent of Kenya’s power capacity and is the main source of energy for industrial and urban use.

Hydropower is generated from reservoir storages which are sensitive to variations in runoff and evapotranspiration.

Reduction in the quantity of water stored has in the past occasioned power rationing and forced manufacturers to use more expensive energy source.

Because day temperatures will generally be higher, most buildings will be forced to use cooling systems, which in turn will increase energy demand and the carbon emission levels.

What therefore is required is a reduction in the share of hydro- power in the energy mix by investing in cleaner, reliable and affordable energy which is less sensitive to climate variability.

Source: (Nation)

Kismaayodaily On December - 4 - 2012

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