From making cactus juice to manufacturing briquettes from waste, Kenyans can take advantage of these opportunities to cope with the effects of climate change, experts have said.
Giving an example of how people have been coping with climate change, Dr Rosemary Ngotho of Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation said women groups in Laikipia were making cactus juice to get income.
Laikipia is one of the driest areas in Kenya and a pastoralist zone that is never spared by droughts.
According to the scientists, Kenyans need to diversify their source of livelihood given that agriculture and pastoralism are the only major sources of income for most. Unfortunately, these two sectors are the most affected by climate change.
Dr Ngotho was speaking during a symposium on climate change at University of Nairobi.
Experts said climate change is not all bad and it offers some income generating opportunities.
“People can actually benefit from funding for their ‘climate smart agriculture’ as well as innovations in infrastructure, water management and energy among other sectors,” said Prof Izael da Silva, the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre board chairman.
In counties like Tharaka-Nithi and Taita-Taveta, mangoes are dried and sold, which not only reduces farm losses, but also creates a revenue stream for farmers and food for others.
Prof Stephen Kiama, the acting Vice Chancellor University of Nairobi, said African countries were experiencing the impact of climate change not only due to their geography, but also because of over reliance on climate-sensitive enterprises and lower ability to adapt.
“For a country where agriculture supports more than 80 per cent of the population and makes up to 27 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), how to deal with climate change is paramount in the socio-economic and political development agenda,” he said.
He said the goals of combating climate change could be attained through the leadership of higher education in climate response and research.
Prof Silva said Kenyans can get funding from his board to invest in start-ups as long as they were tackling the effects of climate change.
Outgoing Environment Principal Secretary Betty Maina said investing in plans to soften the blow of the impact of climate change could generate economic returns as indicated in the Global Commission on Adaptation report. “Investing $1.8 trillion globally in early warning systems, climate resilient infrastructure, improved dry land agriculture, mangrove protection and investments in making water resources more resilient from 2020 to 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits,” said the report.
Currently the effects of climate change cost Kenya 2.4 per cent of the total income each year. “Specifically, estimated costs of floods are 5.5 per cent of the GDP every seven years while droughts account for eight per cent of the GDP every five years,” said Ms Maina.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index report 2020, between 1999 and 2018 about 495,000 people died worldwide. This is besides losses of US$3.5 trillion incurred as a direct result of more than 12,000 extreme weather events around the globe.
As millions of people in Kenya count losses from heavy rainfall and floods in October, November and December last year, innovations in the agricultural sector can help to control more losses, said the experts.
This is given the fact that the current locust plague has further worsened the state of food security in the country. Meanwhile, experts are worried as the western Indian Ocean recorded eight cyclones last year.
The experts warned that climate related hazards were becoming more intense and frequent and urged stakeholders in the sector to accelerate efforts to climate proof the region from the negative impacts of climate variability.
“Last year was marked by climate extremes in the Greater Horn of Africa with eight cyclones hitting the western Indian Ocean. In the past, the region used to experience one to two cyclones every couple of years,” said Guleid Artan, the director of Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Applications Centre.
July 2019 was the warmest month globally since records began in 1880. “Data shows 2019 was the second warmest year on record, just 0.04°C behind 2016 that was the warmest year for global temperature,” Dr Artan said, adding the October, November to December rainfall season was one of the wettest on record and rains continued into January, usually a dry month.
Dr Artan was speaking during the recent 54th meeting of the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum in Mombasa.
Additional reporting by Winnie Atieno