Integrated Regional Information Networks | December 21, 2009
Kenyinke Sena works for the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC). He hails from the Narok district of southwestern Kenya. Mr. Sena says his district is the largest wheat producer in the country. But this year, farmers harvested no wheat, because the rains did not come at the usual time. When it rained, it was not enough. Farmers are short of food, and have already spent their meager savings on farming activities that produced nothing. There was also a massive drought that saw hundreds of thousands of livestock die. When cattle die, agricultural communities feel the impact because pastoralists don’t have money to buy their crops.
Farm Radio Weekly met Mr. Sena at Klimaforum. This was an alternative forum to the United Nations climate change talks that took place in Copenhagen, Denmark. Mr. Sena paints a grim picture of farmer and pastoralist responses to the changing climate. He says that conflicts between communities have increased. People are arming themselves to take livestock and pasture lands from other communities, and to take their cattle to the greener parts of the country.
Another problem is that many people have taken bank loans that they can no longer repay. Yet the government is insisting that farmers and pastoralists pay back their loans.
Mr. Sena says the Kenyan government is trying to promote irrigated agriculture as a response to climate change. But, Mr. Sena says, irrigation requires massive amounts of community investment. Communities don’t have the money or the facilities to make irrigation feasible. For Mr. Sena, the current efforts by the government to promote agriculture, though beneficial, will not solve the food problem in Kenya.
Another component in the government’s climate change response strategy is to promote fish farming. Mr. Sena says that there are a lot of concerns with this initiative. Many of the communities, especially the pastoralist communities, don’t eat fish. And, there may not be enough water for fish farming ponds if the rivers keep drying up.
Instead, Mr. Sena suggests that one appropriate response to climate change is to protect water catchment areas. Mr. Sena comes from the Ogiek indigenous forest dwelling community, which lives in the Mau water catchment area. The Mau complex is Kenya’s largest water catchment area and has seen continued degradation in recent years. This threatens everything from the annual wildebeest migration to pastoralism, agriculture, and hydro-power generation.
The Mau complex is losing biodiversity and water resources, its soil is degraded, and the loss of forest cover has increased carbon dioxide emissions.
Mr. Sena is convinced that protecting the area from climate change will have benefits for many communities in the long run. But, to be successful, the government needs to adopt a consultative approach with local communities.
There has been controversy surrounding the eviction of 50,000 people believed to be illegal squatters from Mau complex. Humanitarian organizations say 500,000 could be displaced should violence erupt.
Last September, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Kenyan government appealed for 400 million American dollars (approximately 280 million Euros) to save the Mau complex. The funds would be used to rehabilitate the area. Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai predicts that it could take almost 30 years to restore the water catchment complex.
-To learn more about the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee, please visit: www.ipacc.org.za
-To learn more about food security and the Mau water catchment area in Kenya, please read the following IRIN stories:
-“Kenya: What drives conflict in northern Kenya” http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=87450
-“Kenya: What is behind the Mau controversy?” http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=86340
-“Kenya: Food security warning after rains fail”: http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=87472
-You may also wish to refer to these resources prepared by Farm Radio International:
News sources for COP15
Awareness of climate change: Issue pack