Climate change in Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) is manifested through recurrent and prolonged drought events, extreme rainfall variability and increasing temperatures. These are the scientifically proven attributes of climate change – but communities have their own understanding of how climate change has occurred in their localities, and how it affects their production systems and lifestyles.
To capture these voices, Oxfam – with the support of ECHO – helped communities in Turkana and Wajir to organise “climate hearings.” These public events aimed to facilitate a common understanding of how the climate is changing, how it affects people, and what people can do to mitigate and adapt to the changes. The hearings brought together climate experts, policy makers, experts in livestock and crop production, and community members, in one discussion forum. The outcome is captured in a new booklet: “Hear Our Call: Climate change testimonies from Kenya’s dry regions of Wajir and Turkana” – you can download it here.
Droughts are occurring increasingly frequently in these areas since the 1970s. It seems that Wajir and Turkana are now facing a major drought every 2-4 years, compared to every 5-10 years in the past. In some cases, droughts are lasting for over 12 months and communities say they have less time to recover before another drought occurs. This has interfered with their livestock systems – ILRI estimates that Kenyan pastoralists may lose up to 50 percent of their livestock during a major drought. It can take between 1.5 and 10 years for herds of cattle, sheep, goats and camels to fully recover, and this continuous diminution of livestock assets is documented in some of the testimonies in this publication.
Although community testimonies indicate lack of rains as one of the impacts of climate change, there is little scientific evidence to suggest reduced annual precipitation in Wajir and Turkana. However, although the amounts may not have drastically reduced – as suggested by communities – the variability of rainfall has increased, affecting its seasonal distrbution and when the rainy seasons begin and end. This all interferes with the livestock production systems in these areas, and can mean poor recharge of water sources and poor regeneration of pasture. It is the duty of those with the scientific information to pass the correct rainfall information to communities through these hearings, in order to assist them to take appropriate steps to adapt.
Community testimonies also documented impacts related to rising temperatures. There is scientific evidence of temperature increases in Wajir and Turkana, and projected increases in monthly temperatures of 1 – 3.2 degrees celsius by 2080. An increase in temperatures in these already hot regions means major impact on pasture and water resources, as well as livestock production. Further, increased loss of soil moisture impacts negatively on pasture regeneration and surface water.
As indicated in the testimonies, lack of pasture and water resources forces communities to migrate to dry season grazing zones or better areas. This mobility is a necessary way of life in the ASALs, but it has also created conditions for conflict over scarce resources.
These hearings also present an important avenue through which Oxfam and others can illustrate the impact of climate change to policy makers. The community voices in this publication are aimed at policy makers at the national level as well as supporting advocacy campaigns around the UNFCCC negotiations. A summary of community adaptation measures and policy recommendations is given in the last part of the publication.
This booklet is part of a series of Oxfam publications on climate change and disaster risk reduction – Visit disasterriskreduction.net to find out more