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Global climate change

We are facing a global threat that is 140 years old. The Industrial Revolution has given us access to a seemingly easy life on one hand and on the other, she has taken every value of our environment. Researchers and policy makers have come to a conclusion that the planet is warming up every year, something that has been attributed to the ever increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There are many factors that are responsible for this "disaster in waiting"

Before the engine was invented by whoever invented it, people lived in a traditional way where almost everyone was a subsistence farmer. There were few people and plenty of land at their disposal. The forest cover was at its maximum in those days. The number of species in the ecosystems were at their best numbers. Life was "sweet" for "everyone" and everything. But there came the engine and with it came combustion and with combustion, of course we got combustion products. The engine was to convert chemical energy in fossil fuels into mechanical and electrical energy. Exhaust gases were additional products in that process; if at all Einstein was be obeyed!

Technology has come a long way. Initial technology had several limitations such as inefficiencies which resulted in losses. Whenever there are losses then it means that fraction of energy goes out as exhaust gas. Technology of 1870s into 1900s put a lot of "losses" into the atmosphere. Engineers, scientists and policy makers have over the years influenced the advancement of technology to limit the amount of "losses" put into the environment.

In this first quarter of the 21st century, the planet has warmed up by 0.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. With such increases in average global temperatures, the planet is headed into catastrophe if that trend is not addressed early. Increasing temperatures are projected to impact climate variability and therefore influence water availability. Current conditions already indicate the planet has deteriorated remarkably in terms of water security and the vulnerability of disastrous events has risen in the last 40 years.

China, the United States of America, India and Europe are the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases. Those regions lie in the northern hemisphere but the emissions are subjected to strong winds and diffusion gradient. Africa, the least emitter of greenhouse gases, lie in the middle of those regions and as a result is susceptible to emissions flow. Africa therefore behaves as a "dump site" for industrial emissions of the northern hemisphere. It is very unfortunate that the least emitter ends up being the most affected by the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. Global warming has caused climate change and climate variability especially for the African region.

The people of Africa have suffered from slavery, hunger and disease for long. Today the list of suffering has illiteracy, insecurity, unemployment, poor governance among others. The rate at which Africans are involved in violent conflicts indicates the effects of climate change are taking the African population from losses into painful losses. Water scarcity has been cited as a major reason why pastoral communities take up small arms to either defend their land or to fight over new grazing lands. This has led to forced migration in different parts of Africa. Refugee and internally displaced persons have increased resulting into instability and politics of seclusion. There are many challenges in Africa and all resonate around the greatest felt impact of climate change - poverty.

The High-Level Panel identified poverty as the number one goal in the design of Sustainable Development Goals. Africa was the most poor region on the globe with millions of people living below $1.25 per day. The symptoms of poverty such as hunger, poor health, illiteracy, high mortality rates and others, were part of poverty. But since Africa still lives within the traditional line of subsistence life style, majority of Africans are dependent on rain fed agriculture. Global warming has resulted in prolonged drought in some areas and floods in others. Both have had negative effects on populations. Decreased rainfall within all River Basins of Africa has exacerbated an already stressed region. In addition, Africa falls short of disaster preparedness, mitigation and adaptation. The question is - what can we do to help our communities adapt to a changing climate?

Access to information and training is vital in empowering rural Africa. Kenya for instance has a robust cellphone infrastructure. With mobile finance we are more suited to incorporate climate finance programs that focus on improving livelihoods so there is incentive to smallholder farmers to invest in climate-smart agriculture. The Constitution of the Republic of Kenya provide an enabling legal and political environment for climate-smart practices. Rural folk can also have access to payments of carbon sequestration to cover the time lag between investing in climate-smart practices and obtaining the economical-environmental benefits. In addition, micro-credits and other insurances could also minimize risks of climate-smart investment gaps.

Evergreen agriculture is another way to improve food security in Africa. The integration of trees into annual food crop systems has proved to be beneficial in some regions of East Africa. Some woody species incorporated into crop fields have been observed to maintain vegetative soil cover, bolstering nutrient cycling, enhance insect suppression, improve water infiltration, provide organic matter and a direct source of food, fodder, fuel, fiber and income. These benefits may look small but the effects they have on populations are life transforming. Successes have been recorded in Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Tanzania and Zambia among others.

Investing in rainwater harvesting may sound traditional but is another efficient way to boost food security in Africa. In Rwanda, standardized trapezoidal shaped ponds with off-stream runoff water conveyance mechanisms provide supplement water for irrigation and livestock. The ponds are often of capacities 120, 240, and 480 cubic metres and are lined with 0.8mm plastic sheet. Affordable methods of water abstraction are used to supply water to various delivery points. Farmers are provided with micro-finance or subsidies of some sort to afford such innovative investments. In general the innovation has proved to be affordable for majority of farmers. With good management, farmers recover the investment cost in 2 years. An investment to last a lifetime with life transforming results is what Africa needs in this era of global warming. The strong people of Africa deserve a healthy life irrespective of the mutating challenges seen in the region.

Afforestation is another way to a sustained food security in Africa. The list goes on and on as long as we can think positively. My question is, how many tress have you planted this year? Plant some trees this rainy season and be part of the change we are advocating. If there is more you can do, do it. The time is now!

First appeared: Linkedin

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