Climate Change Impacts on Communities in Africa

Erratic rainfall patterns, prolonged droughts and floods have become way too common in Kenya and in other parts of the world. In 2011, the world’s attention was drawn to the severe drought in the horn of Africa when thousands of refugees flocked into the Dadaab Refugee camp overstretching its capacity, they were running away from famine and have been widely referred to as ‘environmental/ climate refugees’. It is projected that things will get even worse in the near future as the world takes longer to agree on necessary actions. 

At the moment raging floods continue to plummet the country making it almost impossible for anyone to believe there was severe drought just a few months ago. The floods have led to loss of human life and animal life (both wild and livestock), loss of property, destruction of infrastructure, crop destruction, mudslide, rise in incidence of water-borne diseases among other effects all leaving communities more impoverished and disempowered. Heart rending stories are found everywhere. Mzee Wafula just like my family has lived in the once productive lands of Trans Nzoia County of Kenya all his life. This is his home, this where his parents were born after their parents moved here from the ridges across the adjacent valley. For the umpteenth season, food yields have largely failed, and families are on the verge of starvation and as everyone else he does not know what to do. They have done nothing else than to till the land left by their ancestors, tending to their crops year in year out. There really is no other place to go or to call home if things don’t get better, but will they, and after how long? That’s the question. This and many other vivid examples is what drove me to actively participate in the African Youth Climate Justice Caravan from Nairobi to Durban to reach out to communities and influence the UNFCCC climate negotiations. Travelling down to South Africa by road from Nairobi I was able to see first-hand climate change effects in other countries like Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. 

In Botswana there was a heat wave in late October/early November with temperatures topping 40c something not been experienced before. This is just but an example of how climate change is ravaging communities in Africa leading to economic crises and impacting on communities’ socio-cultural set-ups. At current GHG emission rates, many communities are condemned to cyclic poverty and death from famine, floods and other natural disasters. It will be worse for most countries in Africa and other developing countries as well as small Island nations making it even harder for the already vulnerable communities to cope.

Winnie Khaemba

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