States must move beyond rhetoric on climate action

Daily Nation

Power Shift Africa Founder and Director Mohamed Adow says: As emergency appeals on the drought situation fly about, we risk losing sight of how this crisis came about — and may even think it was inevitable. It’s true that failed rains contribute to hunger as they reduce people’s ability to grow food and leave scanty pasture for livestock.

Drought is a function of reduced rainfall and increased temperature. A World Bank report shows the average temperature in Kenya has risen by one degree Celsius over the past five decades while rainfall has diminished. There is growing evidence that climate change is exacerbating these conditions.

Famine happens when you combine drought with other fundamental problems and vulnerabilities. In the north, they include erosion of pastoralists’ land rights, conversion of grazing areas traditionally used during dry weather into commercially irrigated land, the neglect and marginalisation of pastoralists from political decisions which affect them — and conflict, which has limited migration. Other underlying problems are inadequate infrastructure, lack access to markets and the absence of an explicit risk management approach to survive drought.

Blindness to the less obvious causes of the recurrent food crisis is reflected in the typical response to the drought-induced crisis: Appeals for (mostly) international support to provide food and water aid — to save lives. This is a defeatist approach.

While declaring drought a national disaster, the President promised to assent to a bill for marginalised counties to benefit from cash in the Equalisation Fund. But ending the drought cycle will take more than that. We must change course.

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