a field report of Ms. Louisa Chinyavu Mwenda (CIPSEM alumna, SC68)
In most of the rural parts of Kenya including the coastal interior, few know of the term climate change. However, impacts have been felt far and wide, with many left with lingering questions on their minds. Drought is the most worrying issue that the communities in Kilifi county face. In recent years, the weather patterns have been predictable, but in 2016 it was different. It is evident that the harsh impacts of climate change have affected water resources and in turn affecting food security, and other sectors including health and education. In mid October 2016, just a few weeks after completing the SC 68 Integrated Water Resources Management and Health short course, I set out to find out more on the impacts of climate change on water resources in Kaloleni, Kilifi County with the aim of gathering sufficient information on the situation which can aid in future interventions. I interviewed some of the residents in Kaloleni, Kilifi county, and this is what some of them had to say:
I find Dama an elderly woman with five other ladies surrounding a well known as Mwabanda, in Zizimo village, Kilifi County, catching up while fetching water. Mwabanda is a well, which has been the source of water for the villagers for almost three years. In Swahili, she informs me that the water is undrinkable and is dirty because sediments flow in especially from harsh winds. I spot a number of frogs in the water. She also admits that sometimes the quality of the water affects health especially in young children who are vulnerable to disease. She tells me that she in normally at the pond thrice in a day and sometimes even five times. As Dama speaks, a woman balancing on her head a jerrican full of water, commonly known as a ‘kia’ interjects informing me that there is no rain and the maize crop has failed due to the severe drought. As a parting shot, Dama tells me “the drought is so severe that even men now days have to join us to fetch water”.
She is a young girl probably not a teenager. She trembles on spotting the camera and is afraid to answer any questions; however she does answer a few in low tones. She goes to school but today she is not in class because she has to fetch water. She barely makes any eye contact but informs me the pond is called Kwa Kagogo. She then continues to fill in her jerrican with water, under the scorching sun.
Clemence is a middle aged woman who informs me that the river Bemkambe, in Bemkambe village Kilifi County, has been dry for about five years now. She points towards the path where the river meandered previously which is now a bed of rocks and sand. ‘In previous years, the rains would start in March and continue till May. However this year, there was no rain at all. Our maize and rice crop failed due to drought’. She also mentions that she heard that the country would experience El Niño, but was also worried that when the rains are in excess, the coconut trees in her farm would fall because the roots become saturated with water. However she says that she is still waiting for the El Niño, because it will bring hope.
‘Tangu El Nino ya 1997, hakuna mvua ya maana…’ which means that there has been no significant rain since the 1997 ElNino, claims Mr. Chome, who is a resident of Chanagande, Kilifi county. He is appalled by the weather pattern changes, and claims that people and livestock have died due to drought. The 60 year old man informs me that this village, Kagombani, which means ‘banana plant’, was characterized by banana plantations when he was in his youth. He counts and points three frail banana plants on his farm, which is the current situation in most parts of the village. Mr. Chome is chatty, and goes ahead to say that he is from searching for pasture for his one lactating cow but he insists that he needs a borehole to sustain his cow and calf and also his family; because the ponds that he was relying on are also drying up and the soils are no longer fertile.
She is commonly referred to as Hawe Dena in Kaloleni area, Kilifi County. Hawe Dena is 87 years old but is strong and very knowledgeable, clearly from the many years of experience. She informs me of how the weather patterns have drastically changed affecting the water supply in the area. She has a subsistence farm, which she plants various crops, but complains that it is very tiring to carry water to the farm. ‘Mwaka huu mahindi hayakukuwa kwa sababu ya ukosefu wa mvua,” she says, meaning that this year the maize did not thrive because of lack of water. She tells us that her farm is rain-fed and so when it does not rain she is severely affected. The soil beneath my feet is very hot. She also tells me that she has a well constructed in her ‘shamba’ and she takes me on a tour around the farm and to the well, however the well depends on rain water and is currently dry. She also takes the opportunity to request for any intervention that could make the situation better.
Other than the impacts on the land and on water and agricultural resources, other effects can be seen such as the receding coastline. Boats are spotted stuck in sand in need of evacuation. Therefore it is necessary to find both short and long term solutions towards adaptation and mitigation strategies towards climate change. How is climate change affecting you? What can you do about the impacts? What can you do about climate change?