A malnourished child being attended to medics due the current drought ravaging parts of Somalia to impacts of climate change. PHOTO/FAO
By PATRICK MAYOYO
They trek for many kilometres in search of water and food due to the ravaging drought.
Their husbands are killed or maimed in conflicts over competition for water and pasture and as a result they are left with the challenging responsibility of bringing up their orphaned children under very difficult conditions.
From Mandera, to Wajir, Garissa to Tana River, Samburu to Pokot to Turkana, Kajiado to Narok, Marsabit to Isiolo harrowing tales abound how women in this arid and semi arid areas are struggling to cope with effects of climate change.
As global temperatures rise, and weather patterns change, many of Africa’s rural women are now paying a high price.
For Bahati Jillo, her day starts at 4am, when she leaves her manyatta (a temporary dwelling) in Galole village in Tana River county in search of drinking water.
Her journey takes her 15 kilometres away in search of water and by the time she returns home she has trekked for 30 kilometres in search of this rare commodity on an empty stomach and on her return there is no food to cook for her five children.
It is now eight months since it rained here and this has been her routine as she struggles to bring up her five children as a widow after her husband Abdi Jillo was killed in a clan fight over a grazing dispute.
As she ponders what to cook for her hungry children that have been without a meal for today now, she decides to approach her neighbhour for assistance.
She is helped by a cup of maize flour which she uses to make them porridge hoping to get famine relief expected to be distributed by the area chief the next day.
What is happening in this village in Kenya replicates itself in other countries in Africa making climate change the cause of many challenges on the continent that women are facing.
Food waste as a major contributor to climate change
And millions of people in Africa are suffering due to hunger, food waste is turning out to be a major contributor to climate change.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations (FAO) studies show that more than 1.3 billion tonnes of food goes to waste annually around the world. PHOTO/PEXELS
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations (FAO), studies show that more than 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year around the world due to various reasons.
In Lawyer Lydia Omuko, an environmental expert says there’s a high rate of food wastage in Africa yet the continent has a very high rate of poverty and undernourishment.
“The difference with the food wastage in developed countries is that in developed countries, it occurs at the consumer level while in developing countries, Kenya included, it occurs earlier in supply chain, especially during processing and transportation,” she notes.
Food waste in Africa blamed on poor food transportation, processing, storage and cooling
Ms Omuko said Africa and Kenya’s food wastage has been attributed to, firstly inadequate infrastructure for food transportation, processing, storage and cooling, which accounts for approximately 40 percent of food wastage.
“Secondly, the “European Cosmetic Standards” accounts for approximately 15 – 30 percent of food wastage, mainly from vegetables and fruits. The fruits and vegetables are usually rejected by European supermarkets for being the wrong size, shape or simply for not being attractive,” she adds.
Ms Omuko concedes that indeed, food wastage is a big contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.
“In 2013, FAO released a report thatif food waste were a country, it would be the third largest carbon emitter in the world after the US and China,” she says.
Africa and developing or low income countries, poor infrastructure and undeveloped production are the main causes of food loss.
However, unknown to many, studies have now revealed that food waste is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Greenhouse gas emissions result in climate change which is blamed for causing droughts, floods, diseases, food shortages and water scarcity among others.
Climate change impacts in Africa
African countries are suffering devastating impacts of climate change that include: droughts, floods, diseases, food shortage and water scarcity among others largely caused by carbon emissions in the developed world as they are the least environment polluters.
Women and their children at a food distribution centre in Somalia waiting for food supplies due to the hunger ravaging the country. PHOTO/FAO
Studies show that more than 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone could die of disease directly linked to climate change by the end of the century.
Researchers also indicate that more than 150,000 people currently die every year globally from the effects of climate change as the phenomena increases the spread of infectious diseases and causes more disasters.
Warmer and wetter weather brought about by climate change means that malaria is spreading faster in the developing world where it already kills up to three million people per year.
What the UN says
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its latest report says global warming is set to spark a return of highland malaria to previously unaffected areas and new diseases mainly contracted from wild and domestic animals.
The UN experts say that movement of malaria parasites into new highland regions will mean more epidemics and more deaths because residents of such areas have no natural immunity.
The risk of serious natural disasters is also on the increase. Experts have observed that rises in temperature of the sea surface has doubled the possibility of coastal flooding.
For example, here in Kenya, the UN panelists report says coastal flooding could cost Kenya more than Sh90 billion in losses by 2030.
Food supplies are also seriously affected by climate change.
For example in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, more than 11 million people are being ravaged by hunger due to prolonged drought caused by climate change.
The UN scientists also warn that global warming would reduce maize production in Kenya by a fifth, while yields on other staple food including beans would shrink by 68 percent.
What NGOs are doing to mitigate impacts of climate change
According to Care International, Kenya is one of the first African countries to develop legislation that actively promotes women’s participation in climate change activities, both at the policy and community levels.
The International NGO says, not only does the Kenyan constitution offer a fairly good equity framework, but the National Gender and Equality Commission also helps to ensure that issues of equity are addressed across the board.
“In addition, there is a draft Kenyan climate change policy and bill as well as the Kenya National Climate Change Action Plan, all of which mention gender and women’s rights issues. As a result, women are becoming increasingly involved in Kenya’s climate response,” says in a report.
CARE’s Adaptation Learning Programme for Africa (ALP), which promotes community-based adaptation approaches in Kenya, Ghana, Niger and Mozambique, is a case in point.
It has been working hand in hand with the government, and with both men and women, to integrate the use of climate information into participatory adaptation planning and budgeting.
The programme is about asking both men and women for their views, ideas and needs when it comes to taking action on climate change – and affording them fair weight.
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