Need for climate smart policies as temperatures in five counties rise beyond 1.5 °C
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29 March 2018
Author :   Isaiah Esipisu
Cattle were the most affected : >> Image Credits by:Isaiah Esipisu

LAIKIPIA, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Two years ago, the global community drafted what is now known as the ‘Paris Agreement on climate change,’ which seeks for international interventions to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.

But according to a new study conducted in all Kenya’s 21 semi arid land counties, at least five of them have already surpassed the 1.5 °C mark, and the impact especially on cattle survival is devastating. The most worrying part of the study is the projections, which show that the temperatures are going t rise even further in the coming years.

This comes just four years after the World Bank released a report synthesising scientific knowledge on global warming, which warned that the earth was on a path to a 4oC warmer by the end of the century - with huge implications for humanity.

According to the new study commissioned by the Canada based International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) – through a project known as Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies (PRISE), West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet are the most affected counties with temperature rise of 1.91oC in the past 50 years. Others include Turkana (1.8oC), Baringo (1.8oC), Laikipia (1.59oC) and Narok (1.75oC).  

The most startling fact is that the study also found out that the overall population of cattle in all the 21 semi arid land counties has decreased by more than 26 % in the past 38 years, and the scientists who carried out the study are attributing this to the constantly rising temperatures due to global warming, and reduced or unpredictable rainfall patterns.

So far, Turkana County is the most affected in terms of cattle population reduction, recording a drop of near 60 % in the past 38 years ending 2015, followed by Machakos, Garissa, Kitui and Kajiado counties according to the study conducted by scientists from Kenya Markets Trust (KMT).

This is bad news particularly for Turkana, Garissa and Kajiado because livestock is the main source of livelihoods for residents in those counties.

However, all is not lost. While the cattle population was on the decline, sheep and goats’ overall population in the 21 semi arid counties increased by 76.3% during the same period, with some counties like Laikipia and Lamu recording 256.6% and 458% increase respectively.

According to the scientists, cattle can thrive well if the temperatures do not surpass 30oC and not below 10oC. But small animals like sheep and goats, and also camels can tolerate warmer temperatures, hence the reason why they were able to multiply exponentially in the wake of the rising temperatures.    

These findings should therefore be a wake-up call for all counties. They should use such scientific information to reevaluate what is happening in terms of rising temperatures and rainfall variations and the projections in the next few years in order to come up with sound policies that are responsive to climate change.

One way of adapting to climate chocks and stresses will be by developing such policies with clear knowledge of what the near future is likely going to look like, with focus on appropriate technologies, while being mindful of crops or livestock animals that are going to survive in projected climatic conditions.

Three counties in the semi arid areas are already leading the way. Kitui, Tharaka Nithi and Embu Counties have joined hands with the Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and faith based organisations to develop respective climate change policies based on experiments by local farmers to identify local technologies that can work as a way of adaptation.

According to Dr Mohammed Said, one of the PRISE researchers, 50mm change in rainfall can completely change the entire cropping system.

It therefore means that with the constantly rising temperatures, some crops will start performing poorly in places where they used to perform well, while others may start performing well in areas where they never thrived.

Considering  the PRISE research findings, some counties will need to re-think and prioritise their livestock investment options to take comparative advantage of the resources they have, for example Laikipia and Isiolo could invest in cattle slaughterhouses, Marsabit goat slaughterhouse and Wajir county camel and sheep and goats slaughterhouses.

Such important knowledge must therefore be considered by all county governments as they continue developing their spatial plans.

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