Greetings from my elderly grandmother, a farmer living in rural Kenya. She affirms that climate change is indeed an issue of concern in Kenya. Her description of the weather brings to light the evolution of climate change over the years, its definition, and its effects to the environment.
My grandmother tells me that during her younger years, Kenya’s eastern region experienced short rains from October to December, the long rains would come from March to May.
Currently, it’s hard to predict the rains. Relying on the weatherman has also proved difficult.
Despite having no formal education on climate, she knows what climate change is. Weather is the state of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, and clearness or cloudiness. On the other hand, climate of a region is its average weather over a period which maybe a few months, a season, or a few years. No season is the same as the last or as any previous.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a United Nations’ body that advances knowledge on humans’ role in climate change. It defines climate change as extended changes over time of climate that can be identified.
As we continue talking, my grandmother says she is worried of crop failure.
“You see, the weatherman advised us that the rainfall would start early this month,” she told me. “We planted a week prior and to date no rains.”
She tells me if this situation continues there will be no water and grass for the cattle, sheep, and goats.
Climate change brings stress to population. Climate is a huge factor of production. It impacts on food security, and economic development and growth.
What are the effects of climate change?
In her detailed explanation, my grandmother says much of the disasters is ascribed to religion. In many cultures lack of rain and droughts are viewed as caused by gods.
Climate change can lead to river’s water level to decrease over the years. In the past, she says, whenever rains failed the family would trap river water to irrigate their crops and for their livestock.
She pauses and then reminds me of El Niño event that occurred in 1982-1983, followed by another one in 1990-1993. The later La Niña, led to the most devastating droughts of 1984 and 1993.
Researchers say the impacts of El Niño and La Niña events have become more severe over the past 20 years due to a warmer climate.
El Niño and La Niña events are natural occurrences in the global climate system resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. Some scientists believe they may be becoming more intense and more frequent as a result of climate change, although exactly how El Niño interacts with climate change is not 100 percent clear.
El Niño rainfall patterns lead to floods and La Niña droughts in tropical and semi tropical areas strongly influenced by the surface temperature of oceans around the world.
My grandmother says that during the El Nino events there were massive floods and mudslides that swept away farms and killed people. El Nino, La Niña, hot spells, wildfires, typhoons are events that are caused by climate change.
Significant world disasters are in fact weather or climate related. Scarcity of food and water in developing countries due to droughts lead to community clashes as people scramble for limited resources.
The variation of weather patterns can easily go unnoticed. However, over large periods of time this variation is what leads to changes in our climates. We only notice the extreme situations and climate disasters.
What can farmers do?
Education will play a big role in curbing climate issues. It is not in doubt that climate affects our survival. Climate literacy is needed to bring to light that humanity is the cause of climate change.
An awareness of the impact of human activities such as deforestation, soil depletion and how we contribute to increasing green gas emissions.
In concluding, she remarked that because of weather disasters the leaders called upon the citizens to plant trees, plant drought resistant crops and harvest water during the rainy season in large scale. She also said that agricultural officers have been urging them to go back to old farming practices that preserved the environment.
For example, strip intercropping planting legumes, trap crops, runners, or cereals. In addition to managing pests, intercropping provides several ecological benefits. It promotes interactions between crops and pollinators, thus supporting biodiversity and wildlife species.
Intercropping can also improve soil and water quality by reducing pesticide use, increasing vegetative cover, and diversifying root structure.
Also, we should use plant waste and animal manure instead of artificial fertiliser. Monocropping and use of artificial fertiliser has been attributed to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The government needs to integrate this kind interventions in the agriculture policy.