Today is Blog Action Day 2009 and the topic of this year is climate change. Climate in Kenya is no longer a personal or family issue, but a national issue. Policies in government are being changed to reverse earlier decisions like the shamba system in Kenya; which was a forest cultivation system where people were officially allowed to go and live and exist with the trees and wildlife in the forests, all the while planting various plant crops. Temporary structures were built for landless people to cultivate trees and live from them. At that time, it was a good idea from the government to introduce this system.
For, in those days, it made provisions for accommodating many landless people and provided food for their families. However, not all was good. The people cut so many trees for building timber, for firewood, and to burn for charcoals. They ended up harming the available trees. Extensive and unchecked food growing/planting in the forests also turned our to be harmful to the trees hence. The number of trees decreased radically, far below recommended percentage. Thus it was necessary for radical changes to be made in order to rescue the situation, and hopefully arrest any further deforestation in the future.
All this deforestation has resulted in dry rivers, which directly affects the water levels in large bodies of water. Hence in Kenya, we experience rationing of electricity almost daily. There are official rationing announcements for electricity countrywide and government updates residents of various areas about these, as well as water rationing. The reason there is water rationing is because of destroyed water catchments areas, e.g. Mau forest has rivers running into neighbouring countries and has been affected greatly by the deforestation.
This has also resulted in changing conditions for our wildlife. When there is not enough water to grow crops or grazing grass for domestic animals, there is often no enough water to nurture plant life for wild life. Many tensions arise in the relationship between humans and animals as a result. If there is not enough water, than wildlife leaves the forest areas in search of water and food.
Another area where we have noticed a change is in the planting and harvesting seasons. Now these seasons widely vary to those days we were young. I remember our first growing season always ending by the end of March or early April of each year. It was a time to cultivate, weed the maize in home farms. Today, the raining season starts later and thus people plant from May to June; something unheard of in the past. There used to be sufficient rain even after harvesting main crops like maize and beans, and our mothers used to then plant vegetables that had short growing seasons (2-3 months). This is no longer possible today because the rains are too short and quiet unpredictable.
This is year the government has encouraged traders to import maize for free again after realising that the harvest of the year is below 40% of the annual expected harvest. This decrease is due to climate change. The government is warning people not to misuse in food that is available to them due to scarcity if produce in the future.
Churches are praying that God intervenes in the situation in Kenya and reverse the climate back to what Kenyans have enjoyed in the past.