I rarely get time to watch television but when I do it is often to do with catching a bit on news, some interesting discussion or a documentary, a soccer match or those tough American Presidential campaigns episodes when it is in season or such. While the famous handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Longtime Opposition Maestro Raila Odinga has cooled political temperatures in Kenya the Kenyan TV could have time to refocus a bit as the divisions between the two political icons has dominated debates and influenced a lot of political discourse whilst some made careers out of it. But something on TV attracted my curiosity about a month or so before the March – April long rains started in Kenya. It had to do with drying of rivers and lack of water in around Mt Kenya region, famous for its greenery. At the same time most of the country was suffering severe droughts. Tree harvesting had even to be stopped by an order by the Deputy President William Ruto for a period of three months. What has been evident is that Kenya is nowadays getting too frequent drought. The cycles are also becoming shorter. The rains when they come are either inadequate or very destructive. Do we need more evidence of climate change?
There are some denials in several quarters in the globe on the existence of climate change. Some of this is coming from high ranking people in politics especially in US and lobby groups associated with powerful profit making organizations. The US President Donald Trump who pursues his business ventures and now politics with a lot of zeal has some admirable characteristics and some not. One area his administration has been seen not so keen is addressing matters to do with climate change. The denial of the existence of the phenomenon by his administration is palpable. Obviously matters to do with climate change would attract attention to some industries that would be severely affected by new regulations or campaigns aimed to curtail climatic change. Some of the transnational l or national corporations whose activities affect or are seen to impact negatively on environment would naturally have to react in diverse ways including politically to protect their interests. This is understandable but the bottom-line is the damages to the environment and the consequences that are seen in ravages of climate change are too severe to be ignored. Obviously oil industry is one such that will be affected in the immediate in terms of profits and growth if climate change campaigns were to gain the needed traction. Exploration for more oil and investments in these would be severally affected. However, some of the global oil companies have changed tact to embrace renewable energy as part of their forward looking investment plans.
Should we be worried by Climate Change? Certainly yes. Droughts, floods and such weather conditions anywhere in the globe is not something to ignore. With global population rising particularly in Africa, Middle East, Asia and parts of America, the world need more food and better food chains management. Agriculture and health are sectors that are certainly affected adversely in case of adverse weather patterns. Some scientists attribute the invasion of armyworms in maize plants as is happening in Kenya as well as emergence of all manner of pests and diseases affecting diverse crops to changes in global weather. In a sense the destruction of agriculture is real. Moreover, with pollution becoming intense due to surging energy demands and use of fossil fuels at higher rates means more health problems. Of course with the increased urbanization coupled with inadequate planning means pollution in cities and other urban areas is bound to become more intense. While this is happening, governments are constrained on budgets to adequately care for health of their people. The case for Kenya on this is well known and a typical example.
So we need more efforts despite denials by powerful corporations, some government bureaucrats from powerful nations and lobby groups. If we live in denial this does not solve the problem. Instead we accentuate the problem and cause a lot of harm to existing generations and posterity. But there is an opportunity to change this. In rural Kenya for instance there are a lot of growth and success stories on dairy industry thanks to robust cooperative movements supporting the farming. The number of households keeping dairy cows on zero grazing units run into millions. If you add those keeping other domestic/farm animals on a caged type of system that include pigs and chicken these are quite significant. These animals by themselves release a lot of biomethane and other gases into the air. If tapped some of these gases would reduce the carbon dioxide release and effects in the air. Thus the exploitation of these animals waste through biogas installation is quite noble and desirable. This will even reduce the destruction of forests and woodlands in search of wood and charcoal for fuel which is very rampant in Kenya. Besides pollution the said destruction threatens not just the weather patterns but also annihilates wildlife which countries like Kenya need so badly for the tourism industry. Tourism is one key sector in Kenya in addressing the unemployment menace. Outside the domestic animals human waste collected in significant amounts can also be a feedstock for biogas systems.
In essence there are systems to address some of the energy needs for households that are low in pollution or no pollution at all. In Kenya land arable land is scarce. Yet still most of the agricultural production in Kenya is from small parcels of land. This is where food crops and cash crops such as tea and coffee (critical for foreign exchange earnings as part of the export basket) are grown. Yet still many more agricultural produce such as milk, vegetables and flowers need these small scale land holders’ farmers to build the economy through local consumption or for export. The small parcels of land available for agriculture can be made more productive in production of energy for household use as well as for running cottage industries. If you look at the County of Kiambu in Kenya for instance the population is high and parcels of land available to households are quite small in size on average. Yet the level of dairy especially milk production is quite high. You would not complete the Kenyan story on dairy production without the mention of Kiambu County. The dairy animals on zero grazing provide the families with income and food at the same time. When biogas is introduced in the mix the family gets more productivity in terms of energy provision plus bioslurry component as a byproduct useful as organic fertilizer. These are small steps yet beneficial to the households and critical in addressing the bigger problem of climate change as this reduces pollution while improves family incomes and reduction of destruction of forests and woodlands critical for sectors like tourism.
This means in addressing global climate change we are changing the ecosystem that benefits from the household level to the large scale in terms of government priorities and global needs for a safer world. Why this has not been successful has everything to do with the level of advocacy as well as funding. It is imperative that a lot more in advocacy and funding are needed in the thrust for renewable energy which is critical in addressing climate change challenges.
Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
The Writer is the leader of a Leading Renewable Energy Organisation in Africa, Researcher, Consultant, Chairman Consumer Downtown Association and also represents Several Global International Organisations in Renewable Energy Sector.