The State of Climate Change and Agriculture in Kenya and Africa in General

One of the greatest challenge African agriculture is facing in my opinion is climate change which cuts across all of a country’s economic sectors. Our country (like many others in the developing world) has very little human technical expertise in this emerging environmental field. In government systems, a critical lack of capacity brings into question their resulting climate change strategies whose decision making is not driven to achieve public good but rather their personal interests. Donors who avail climate adaptation funding ultimately determine where and how their money will be spent leaving poor developing countries with little choice about it. 

The effects of climate change are most adverse in agriculture – crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry – where a majority of our poor segment of the populace derives its livelihood. Yet such poor countries like Kenya are at a greater risk both in terms of exposure to climatic changes and sensitivity to such changes as well as in terms of their low capacity and means to govern a changing climate. These challenges are being exacerbated by the fact that there exists no specific climate change policy for any of the economic sectors. Only the National Climate Change Response Strategy of 2010 and most recently in March 2013, the National Climate Change Action Plan exist. Nonetheless, a draft policy Bill is currently in circulation. This situation is allowing powerful actors to shape the climate agenda and activities in the country with possible adverse local implications on resource poor farmers and pastoralists (Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), 2013).  The risk here is that the anticipated climate adaptation funding may benefit those close to the policy makers rather than the most vulnerable.
While it is being more and more recognized that climate change is affecting agriculture in diverse ways, across much of sub-Saharan Africa, governments often resort to knee jerk reactions when the impacts of climate change manifest. At the international level in the climate change negotiations, African countries have a lower influence and say in the debate and they have tried to change this by forming the The Africa Group, a coalition of African states which looks out for the continent. Whereas negotiating as a regional bloc has increased their bargaining power on issues considered critical to them especially political and financial support for their adaptation interventions and technology, there will still be winners and losers depending on the outcome at the negotiating table. 
As the climate debate in Africa is a relatively new development theme that donors seem to be more and more interested in, some organizations and agencies are now claiming their activities seek to “build resilience of the vulnerable poor and marginalized” principally in order to cash in on the anticipated donor climate funds (FAC, 2013). This has been exacerbated by the fact that the expected outcome and objective of climate action – resilience – is fast becoming the new agenda of many of the world’s bi- and multi-lateral agencies such as UNDP, USAID, DFID, WFP, IDRC, the EU and UNICEF just to mention a few. Also not left behind in this new paradigm shift are a growing number of well known non-governmental organizations including Oxfam, MercyCorps, CARE International, World Vision, etc. who have adopted resilience as being at the heart of their development objectives. However, no one has so far developed a widely accepted measure of what resilience really is and most importantly its measurable indicators among the most climate change vulnerable communities.    

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