NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Kenya's ban on plastic bags, its commitment to restore 5.1 Million hectares of land through afforestation and growth projections in the renewable energy sector are according to United Nations, key to addressing effects of climate change and environment.
In a meeting held recently between Kenya, United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change(UNFCCC) the Kenyan Ministry of Environment, Kenya Forest Service (KFS), World Resources Institute (WRI), Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Greenbelt Movement, the three commitments have been singled out as adaptation and mitigation measures to move Kenya towards a low carbon climate resilient development pathway
According to the Environment Cabinet Secretary Prof Judi Wakhungu the initiatives are being undertaken by Government and private sector, to help communities cope with the impacts of climate change and develop a low carbon infrastructure.
Through the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in a gazette notice number 2356, the use, manufacture, and importation of all plastics bags has been banned in Kenya.
The ban was met with uproar and rejection especially from the manufacturing sector and is the third attempt by the government since 2005 to ban polythene bags below 30 micron.
"For a long time, the country suffered greatly from the negative effects of plastic bags; which have clogged drains and rivers and contributed to floods in different parts of the country," said Ms Wakhungu adding that floods have been blamed for killing of marine and domestic animals and also being breeding grounds for malaria causing mosquito among many other ills,"
A World Economic Forum recent report said that by the year 2050 if we do not change our ways there will be more plastic bags in the ocean than fish.
"I am so excited about the ban on plastic bags and I cannot wait to see innovative solutions emerge from our optimistic and forward-thinking population of young people. Re-usable bags, though costly to produce, may be the long term solution," said Wanjira Mathai, Director, Partnerships for Women's Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER), Wangari Maathai Institute (WMI).
Ms Wakhungu also pointed out that Kenya has announced a significant commitment to restore 5.1 million hectares of land.
"This is nearly nine per cent of Kenya's total landmass and makes us the first African country to complete a national restoration opportunity assessment that informed our commitment to the Bonn Challenge and African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100)," she said.
Through this initiative, Kenya is now the 13th African country to commit to bringing over 46 million hectares of land into restoration by 2030.
The various landscape restoration measures identified include reforestation and rehabilitation of degraded natural forests, agroforestry and woodlots on cropland, commercial tree and bamboo plantations and tree-based buffers along waterways, wetlands and roads.
The national restoration commitment is an opportunity to improve soil fertility and food security, boost access to clean water, increase natural forest cover for ecosystem services, combat desertification, create green jobs, and bolster economic growth and livelihoods, while at the same time making a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation.
Mathai said the Green Belt Movement, founded by the late Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, has planted more than 51 million trees across the country, and this has helped to protect critical watersheds, restore thousands of acres of indigenous forests, and empower thousands of women and their families.
"We have a huge deficit of trees to plant, that is something we can do without spending too much," Mathai said.
Ms Wakhungu also revealed that Kenya has proposed to create such a framework through the Energy Bill, 2015 that recognizes the growth of the renewable energy sector in Kenya.
"A total of 87 per cent of Kenyans use solid fuels for cooking and five per cent use kerosene, meaning that only less than five per cent use liquified petroleum gas (LPG) as their primary cooking fuel,"
Another initiative that is promoting the use of clean cooking and lighting solutions in Kenya, is the wPOWER, an alliance of organizations that work towards empowering women to adopt the use of clean cooking stoves and solar lighting, and urging them to become clean energy entrepreneurs.
Burn Manufacturing, a cookstove manufacturing company in Kenya and a member of wPOWER has sold over 300,000 clean cookstoves, which has facilitated household savings of $63 million per year, and savings of over a million tonnes of carbondioxide.
"Kenyans have voted but there is an outcry for the incoming government to make difficult choices, not always in their short-term interest, such as putting a higher price on carbon and subsidizing renewables with unequivocal conviction," Mathai said.
PAMACC News (17/08/2017) - The world’s first Convention to protect the environment and human health in close to a decade, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, enters into force on 16th August 2017, committing its 74 Parties to reducing the risks to human health and the environment from the harmful release of mercury and mercury compounds. Mercury is recognized to be particularly harmful to unborn children and infants.
Governments that are party to the Convention are now legally bound to take a range of measures to protect human health and the environment by addressing mercury throughout its lifecycle. This includes banning new mercury mines, phasing-out existing ones, and regulating the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, manufacturing processes, and the production of everyday items such as cosmetics, light bulbs, batteries and teeth fillings.
The convention also seeks to reduce emissions as side effects from other industrial processes, such as coal-fired power stations, waste incineration, cement clinker production, and contains measures on the interim storage of mercury, on mercury waste and on measures to reduce the risks of contaminated sites.
“The Minamata Convention shows that our global work to protect our planet and its people can continue to bring nations together. We did it for the Ozone layer and now we're doing it for mercury, just as we need to do it for climate change – a cause that the Minamata Convention will also serve. Together, we can clean up our act," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.
There is no safe level of exposure to mercury nor are there cures for mercury poisoning, which at high levels causes irreversible neurological and health damage. Unborn children and babies are the most vulnerable, along with populations who eat fish contaminated with mercury, those who use mercury at work, and people who live near a source of mercury pollution or in colder climates, where the dangerous heavy metal tends to accumulate.
A 2017 study comparing mercury levels among women of child-bearing age in the Asia and Pacific regions revealed high traces of mercury in 96 percent of the women tested from Pacific communities who have high fish diets.
"I am delighted to join others in the international community and celebrate the entry into force of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. It is an honor for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to be tasked with providing grants for projects and programs to reduce and eliminate the use of mercury. We are ready to continue to help countries conducting inventories, implementation plans, and investments in technology to make mercury history,” said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson.
Up to 8,900 tonnes of mercury are emitted each year. It can be released naturally through the weathering of mercury-containing rocks, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, but significant emissions also come from human processes, particularly coal burning and artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Mining alone exposes up to 15 million workers in 70 different countries to mercury poisoning, including child labourers.
Other human activities that may be sources of mercury pollution include the production of chlorine and some plastics, waste incineration and use of mercury in laboratories, pharmaceuticals, preservatives, paints and jewelry. Since the element is indestructible, the Convention also stipulates conditions for interim storage and disposal of mercury waste.
Like other heavy metals, mercury persists in the environment and builds up in human and animal tissue, particularly in fish. Because it is easily vaporized, mercury can be transported through the air over long distances far removed from its original emission source, polluting air, water and soil.
Signed by 128 countries, the Convention takes its name from the most severe mercury poisoning disaster in history, which came to light in Minamata, Japan in May 1956, after sustained dumping of industrial wastewaters into Minamata Bay, beginning in the 1930s. Local villages who ate fish and shellfish from the bay started suffering convulsions, psychosis, loss of consciousness and coma. In all, thousands of people were certified as having directly suffered from mercury poisoning, now known as Minamata disease.
WEST POKOT, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Residents of West Pokot, a region well known for cattle herding within Kenya’s Rift Valley region are now into farming of a new pawpaw variety recently introduced to the area from Cuba by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The variety known as Pawpaw Maradol is high yielding, tasty, and the tree is dwarf, making it possible for small children to pick ripe fruits while standing on the ground. But above several other varieties, this particular one is self pollinated, hence, does not require the aid of insects or hand pollination.
“In the beginning, I planted just three trees of Pawpaw Maradol. And considering the yield, I think this is going to be my main source of livelihood in the near future, so I have decided to increase the number of trees on my farm to 103,” said Sheila Cherop, a mother of three children from Kangorio village in West Pokot County.
From the demo plots established by FAO in Mosol Ward, it is visible that one Maradol pawpaw tree variety can hold up to huge 100 fruits at any given time for duration of three years.
The new variety was first introduced in Ethiopia by FAO, where it flourished very well. Three years ago, FAO bought certified seeds from Ethiopia and brought them to West Pokot through an Italian Agency for Development Cooperation funded project to help West Pokot resident increase quality and production of added value crops.
And so far, it seems to have adapted to the prevailing climatic conditions and the ecology of the region, giving even better yields.
“One of our targets is to help rural communities in this county adopt new ways of accessing food, incomes and better nutrition,” said Giuseppe De Bac, the Project Manager and an experienced agronomist working with rural communities for more than 30 years.
So far, over 2000 individual farmers are trying the new pawpaw variety on their farms, and those who have already harvested for the first time have sold the fruits in the local market.
“Once farmers start planting the pawpaw crops in large quantities, we will be able to teach them ways of adding value to the fruits so that they can sell it in supermarkets and other markets away from the local market in Pokot,” said De Bac locally nicknamed as Lopong, and ordained as Pokot elder despite being an Italian.
However, before the farmers increase their acreage, FAO has already handed over the crop to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) in Marigat, Baringo for further research particularly to find out where else the fruits can flourish well.
Pawpaw maradol matures in 11 to 12 months, and has a lifespan of three to four years after it should be cut down.
Generally, Pawpaw trees are relatively disease free, including a resistance to Oak Root Fungus (Armillaria). A number of vertebrates such as foxes, opossums, squirrels and raccoons will eat the fruit, although deer, goats and rabbits will not eat the leaves or twigs.
Nutritionists say that the fruit is rich in vitamin C and a number of minerals not limited to potassium, niacin, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and manganese.
PAMACC News - Semi-arid lands (SALs) in developing countries are climate change ‘hot spots’ - or areas where climate change is having grave impacts, such as longer and more frequent droughts. This creates new challenges for jobs and livelihoods in these areas. PRISE Project 4 on 'Enabling environment for private sector/multi-stakeholder action to strengthen resilience to climate change' investigates how the private sector in some of these regions, including businesses owned and run by women, can adapt to climate change and take advantage of new opportunities.
Climate change impacts on businesses owned and run by women in sub-Saharan African SALs
Our research reveals that female business owners in Narok County (one of Kenya’s 47 counties and located in a semi-arid area of Kenya’s Rift Valley region) are more vulnerable to some of the risks of climate change than their male counterparts, due to strong socio-cultural norms around gender roles and resource use and access. Most women in Kenya’s SALs run or own agriculture-based Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) – like small scale trade in cereal, milk and poultry products – all of which are directly affected by climate change. The women we spoke to said climate impacts, such as drought and climate-related livestock disease, lead to losses to their business assets and reduced growth.
Broader impact of climate change
Climate change also leads to a range of broader problems. During drought, men in Narok are forced to sell off land at ‘crisis’ values, far below the actual value of the land. This way of coping can have a debilitating impact on MSMEs led by women, because the money families receive from land sales is rarely invested into female businesses and selling off land means it can no longer be used for farming, or as security to access credit from microfinance institutions.
Female business owners see few adaptation options
Women who own MSMEs in Narok have few options to strengthen their businesses against the negative impacts of climate change. Apart from using community banking and lending networks, they largely depend on reducing stocks at times of water shortages. Tomato traders from Narok South described being forced to cut production by more than half, to limit the area of land that needs to be watered, and so reduce their risk of loss and damage.
Though these kinds of strategies may help businesses to cope in the short term, over time, reducing stocks and production may prove counter-productive, as the resulting loss in profits and business may limit the resources that women have available to help them to cope with future climate change impacts.
What limits adaptation options for women-led MSMEs?
MSMEs in sub-Saharan Africa face business challenges including underdeveloped infrastructure and limited access to finance, technology, markets, skilled labour and information services. Yet cultural constraints and traditionally ‘institutionalised’ gender roles can also prevent female-led MSMEs in Kenya’s SALs from adapting to climate change, by limiting their access to technology, information and financial resources. For example, a partnership between Kenya Hives Limited, the Maasai Mara Bee Keepers Association and bee keeping entrepreneurs in Narok develops market links and provides capacity building services around bee-hive management. This includes training women beekeeping entrepreneurs to improve harvest quality to increase production and profit. But when field officers visit homes to offer on-farm demonstrations of new technologies, like the use of modern bee hives, they are often only allowed to speak with female entrepreneurs with the permission of the women’s husbands.
Women's groups, which are common in Kenya, may provide a forum for such initiatives to engage with women and provide technology demonstrations. Yet the women we spoke to said that the technology implementation also often requires approval from men, who control land and family resources. A woman entrepreneur from Narok said:
“Resource acquisition has remained a big challenge [for women]. Getting loans from the Banks is a major challenge because they need a lot of collateral, which is not easily available. Land in Narok is under the custody of men, while others have no title deeds [meaning land] cannot effectively act as collateral for women. So far, the business environment is still very hostile for women. Even though there is the ‘women's fund’ in Narok, it is a challenge to access it because it targets mostly the very low in the society, so other women in the middle-upper cadre are neglected. It is difficult for women to grow in business.”
Early signs of positive change
In contrast, some women in the Maasai Mara Beekeepers Association have broken through these cultural barriers. These entrepreneurs have been able to access and use modern hives which, because they can be moved from region to region, are more responsive to climate change. The hives are also easier for women to manage because they do not have to be mounted on top of a tree. These women have been able to increase their honey production and sales in the face of climate change, and have become major suppliers of honey in Narok and surrounding areas. Crucially, most of the women benefiting from these hives have had better educational opportunities and more exposure to training seminars, allowing them to learn, share experiences and establish networks and partnerships.
Supporting female-owned SMEs through national gender policies
Kenya recognises the need to mainstream gender equity in various national policies, including the Climate Change Act. Many women also hope that Kenya’s procurement act, which ring-fences one third of government tenders for women, young people and those with disabilities, could also help to break down cultural barriers and spur robust and resilient financial, technological and knowledge opportunities for women entrepreneurs.
Yet even these broader policies are inadequately implemented, monitored and enforced. In development meetings, where concerns around poor policy implementation can be aired, generally only a small number of ‘elite’ women – who can speak and understand policy language – attend. Often these women have lived their lives and attended school outside Narok, which may limit their ability to accurately represent the context and experiences of local women.
More national policies on gender may not be the answer to dismantle socio-cultural barriers to inclusive private sector adaptation. Instead, maybe the way forward requires a move away from simple policy statements, to designing and reinforcing clearer and more inclusive implementation platforms, which ensure that the broader enabling frameworks, established in national policy, are mainstreamed and implemented at ground-level.
Joanes Atela is a Senior Research Fellow while Kate Gannon is a Research Officer