Leadership, News

Here is Why Climate Change is a top Concern for Voters

Roads, jobs, and food. These three are often the top demands of Kenyan vot­ers. Wher­ev­er you trav­el in Kenya, peo­ple will com­plain about the bad state of local roads, lack of local jobs, food inse­cu­ri­ty, and food prices. 

Although the gov­ern­ment has done a com­mend­able job with roads, we still need to con­struct hun­dreds more kilo­me­ters of roads. Accord­ing to the Kenya Roads Board, the length of the entire Road Net­work in Kenya is 160,886. Vot­ers are there­fore right to demand dras­tic expan­sion of this road net­work. Vot­ers are also right in demand­ing expo­nen­tial mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of jobs. In the same vein, food inse­cu­ri­ty and food prices remain crit­i­cal issues in our nation­al conversation. 

How­ev­er, we must exhaus­tive­ly address cli­mate change, which is one of the root caus­es of food inse­cu­ri­ty. As such, politi­cians can­not afford to treat cli­mate change as a periph­er­al issue. 

Last week, a group of 200 experts from the Glob­al Chal­lenges Research Fund con­duct­ed com­pre­hen­sive research and con­clud­ed that unless we take urgent action, ‘crop fail­ures, eco­nom­ic shocks and loss of liveli­hoods will inten­si­fy in sub-Saha­ran Africa as a result of cli­mate change.

You just have to vis­it most parts of rur­al Kenya to con­firm these find­ings. In recent years, crop fail­ure has become the norm, leav­ing com­mu­ni­ties at a loss. Evi­dent­ly, even the cur­rent heavy rains sea­son seems to be going off-script. This is why we need to urgent­ly and deci­sive­ly tran­si­tion into cli­mate-smart agri­cul­ture that is not rain-depen­dent. Indeed, cli­mate-smart agri­cul­ture is a dou­ble-edged sword that will slay both unem­ploy­ment and food insecurity. 

The Kenya Eco­nom­ic Report 2021 pro­vides cli­mate-smart agri­cul­ture inter­ven­tions. They must become main­stream elec­toral issues. 

In light of extend­ed droughts, I sug­gest that drought-tol­er­ant crop vari­eties need to be rolled out across the coun­try. Insti­tutes like the Inter­na­tion­al Crops Research Insti­tute for the Semi-Arid Trop­ics (ICRISAT) are on the fore­front of pro­mot­ing and entrench­ing drought-resis­tant crops. We need to draw from their exper­tise and ensure that our farm­ers don’t plant crop vari­eties that will wilt and die due to errat­ic rainfall. 

Thank­ful­ly, ICRISIAT is already doing these in parts of Kitui, Tai­ta Tave­ta, and Makueni. Some of the drought-resis­tant crop vari­eties that farm­ers are already plant­i­ng include green grams, sorghum, mil­lets, pigeon peas, cow­peas, and ground­nuts. Those who are seek­ing votes from Kenyans must address the main­stream­ing of drought-resis­tant crops. 

The 2021 Kenya Eco­nom­ic Report also talks about agro­forestry. Despite agro­forestry being a tried and test­ed cli­mate-smart inter­ven­tion, it con­tin­ues to exist only on the fringes of agri­cul­ture. Cyrus Ogu­na, the Gov­ern­ment spokesman recent­ly urged farm­ers to embrace agro­forestry. The incom­ing Gov­ern­ment must how­ev­er go a step fur­ther and facil­i­tate farm­ers across Kenya to do so.

Accord­ing to the Food and Agri­cul­ture Orga­ni­za­tion, a quar­ter of the world’s 4.4 bil­lion hectares (10.9 mil­lion acres) of crop­land is degrad­ed. Thou­sands of these degrad­ed farm­land hectares are right here in Kenya. Agro­forestry will great­ly boost land restora­tion efforts. 35,000 Kenyan farm­ers have wit­nessed this first­hand. They are part of the dry­lands devel­op­ment pro­gram that is root­ed in agro­forestry. Against this back­drop, vot­ers must exert pres­sure on lead­ers to inte­grate agro­forestry into their man­i­festos. Many of these lead­ers are not even aware of agroforestry’s sheer importance.

Anoth­er cli­mate-smart inter­ven­tion that must be part of our elec­toral con­ver­sa­tion is organ­ic farm­ing. The Rus­sia-Ukraine war has remind­ed us of organ­ic farming’s utter impor­tance. Peter Mun­ya, the Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary for Agri­cul­ture recent­ly told Par­lia­ment that, “We get most of our fer­til­iz­er from Rus­sia and Chi­na and this war may see the price of fer­til­iz­er hit Sh7,000 if there will be no sub­sidy in place.”

We should take full advan­tage of this moment to fur­ther entrench organ­ic farm­ing into our soci­ety. Organ­ic agri­cul­ture sus­tains the health of soils, ecosys­tems, and peo­ple. It does so by effi­cient­ly using nat­ur­al resources in enhanc­ing the fer­til­i­ty and com­po­si­tion of the soil. It is thus more ben­e­fi­cial in the long run. 

Cli­mate-smart agri­cul­ture is a vital elec­toral issue and must be treat­ed as such. Think green, act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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