By Samuel Kablit (2015)
Climate change is real and stares at us in the 21st Century. There is therefore need to mitigate the change in climate if the future is to be proud of nature and for the coming generations to have a sustainable source of livelihoods.
Environmental degradation is one of the main causes of climate change currently, most of households in Turkana County, for example, use firewood as a source of energy. The number of charcoal burners has been increasing day by day and as the supply for such kind of energy goes up, so does the number of tress being cut down.
The climatic conditions are harsh and sometimes unbearable. We have not had rain for years now, and the nomadic patterns of pastoralists have increased as our people move across the county and to neighboring countries such as Uganda and South Sudan to look for water and pasture. Even as we are faced with such harsh climatic conditions, our livelihoods and lifestyles subject us to even more dangers. Everywhere we go, we find trees being brought down and charcoal being burnt.
Turkana County is hunger stricken and hard hit by poverty which according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics stands at 80%. It is unfortunate, especially for the communities living in Turkana – a big area of which is not arable, a thirsty county, a people who have got not even a little water to practice subsistence farming to feed their single households.
A lot of people have been forced to adapt to the changing climatic conditions, which has led to increased charcoal burning. Every village in Turkana has people who cut trees and burn charcoal. We are losing trees at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, no effort is being taken to replace these trees. In another 10 years or so, Turkana may not have trees to attract rainfall, trees to beautify our land and trees to provide sheds for our senior citizens as they relax and tell their stories. We will not have indigenous trees to educate our children about, our history on indigenous trees will have a big gap.
It is high time we regulated tree cutting in our county and look for alternate sources of energy that are eco-friendly. Solar is a source of energy that has not be well utilized in Turkana, even as the scorching sun hits us every day. We should take advantage of this sun, rejoice and tap solar energy for cooking and lighting. This way we would have spared our trees and allowed them to grow to attract rainfall in a thirsty county like ours.
Going forward, I urge the Turkana County Government through the Ministry of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, to develop a strategy geared towards making Turkana a tree-cutting-free county by regulating cutting of trees and charcoal burning businesses, and introduce and make accessible low-energy stoves which will use small amount of firewood rather than charcoal.
Finally, protecting our environment is a collective responsibility as we all need clean, safe and sustainable environment. A degraded environment affects all of. Let’s therefore preach the gospel of protecting our trees and the future generations will not blame us for an historical injustice.
Samuel Kablit is a programme officer at HelpAge International and a co-founder of Article 43, a local youth and children NGO based in Turkana County.