Saturday, March 22, 2014

Climate change – A monster Kenya has to fight.

By Mary Mwendwa.

As i walk towards dusty, crowded and densely populated streets of Kayole estate in Nairobi, the polluted environment full of littered plastic bags, swamps loaded with all kinds of waste ranging from human to industrial, lead me to closely built flats which serve as homes to people here. Life seems slow here, women murmuring in low tones, some drunk with red eyes protruding, children playing along dirty trenches of dark  water, small make shift structures, famously known as vibandas – tiny  wrapped vegetable branches ,sachets of  household items like tealeaves, coffee, powder soaps and sweets , are scattered at every street.

The ground full of loose thin soil, an indication of some flooding in the recent past. Iam set to meet Sifu Sitati a middle aged  father of three , living with disability.Sitati , a member of Embakasi Handicapped Empowerment Group is very much aware of  how  climate change is a reality :”I know what climate change is, and as a person with disability, I get affected more because I cannot operate the way other normal people do.”He says. The 40 member group makes beads and baskets from recycled plastic bags.”We realized that plastic bags were such a nuisance; we decided to make something out of it and at the same time taking care of our environment. We make so many products from banana fibers and used tires”. Jane Muthoni, a member of the group confirms. A bracelet, key holder goes for averagely 80ksh and a bag made of recycled plastic bag for 700ksh .This helps the group save in a kitty that helps them on various needs they have, as a people living with disability. Brikets made from charcoal dust and clay soil, are part of energy saving cooking materials they make too, all these sold to other people at very subsidized rates.

According to Sifu Sitati: ’’People still don’t realize the harm they do to their surroundings, this issue of plastics is just a menace to us, I hope the proposed climate change bill will address this”. He complains. Climate change legislation in Kenya has got its own setbacks, realizing the fact that without proper frame work on this, it would be difficult to adapt and mitigate on effects of climate change.

The fact that , the road map to climate change legislation has got so many stakeholders on board, people remain important players in this. They are the ones who directly get affected by the effects of climate change..

Benson Ochieng, Environment lawyer and Director, Institute of Law and Environmental governance (ILEG): “For Kenya to plan well, there has to be a road map on climate change, policy and law will set the broad objectives on this matter, in that perspective, any country that wants to succeed in a certain development goal, needs a policy that provides the broad framework within which it is going to operate, hence the urgent need for climate change policy and law.”He sees the role the counties will play in this, “Counties are here with us anyway, as much as it an ambitious experiment for Kenya, it is for a good course.”

Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG) a network of non –government organizations that have together with a goal of addressing issues on climate change, notes how critical the issue at hand is : “We have a role in safeguarding our people by lobbying the government to come up with a policy and law that will protect out people from effects of climate change, we are now engaging the government through a task force “. John Kyoli, chair of KCCWG, says. He further points out the need for proper governance structures to address the critical issues of climate change:”For example the county governments have such a big role to play in this, they are close to the people and they know better how to handle issues affecting their people in a better way”.

The 2012 climate change Act seeks to achieve, a framework for mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change on all sectors of the economy and levels of governance and is also keen on a mechanism for financing coordination of matters of climate change. Enhancing resilience of human and ecological systems of the impacts of climate change is on top agenda too.

Alexander Alusa, Policy Adviser on climate change:”The climate change bill would help Kenyans identify what needs to be done and codify and what might be done, in order it can be strengthened, this will largely guide on human behavior “.He advices the government to invest in geothermal rather than relying on hydropower, by using hydropower it means we are dependent on rainfall which is sensitive to climate change.

Communities need to look into ways that could help them cope, in urban centers especially slums, home based gardening is proving a better way to adopt to climate change.

The world is currently struggling on how it can reduce on green house gas emissions. Kenya being a developing country, is emits less of these gases, yet the impacts are felt largely with its people.

Apart from forums like COPs (Conference of parties) which debate on this and set standards on how countries are supposed to adopt and mitigate on climate change , our own way of dealing with harsh weather conditions is just an immediate intervention.

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