How climate change is affecting local women in Kenya
Updated: Apr 13, 2020
A little while ago I wrote a series of blogs, The Picture: big and small, which looked at the effects of climate change on land, ocean and people, as well as highlighting some big CO2 contributors. I felt it was important to understand the big picture, so that we could see the importance of climate change. The series ended with a post called 'Do my actions matter?' I looked at why the actions of people like you and me really do matter, and since then I've been looking at ways of putting that into action (literally).
Today's blog post is a bit different, it is looking at the big picture again. In June I emailed a man called Domnic Misolo, he's a friend of my dad's and I had written to him in the past about a university project. The reason I wrote to him this time was slightly different. My dad told me that Domnic, who lives and works in Kenya, and his community were already seeing the effects of climate change. So I wrote to Domnic and asked him if he would consider telling me a bit more so that I could share it with all of you. This blog post is the result - a mix of my own words and his (framed by quotation marks, and are truly his own words). I hope that seeing the real life effects of climate change makes some of this real for you, as it did for me. And encourages you that each small action you take has significance, because it is done for the greater good of earth and people.
A little bit of context
Rev. Domnic Misolo lives and works in Bondo, Kenya. He founded the Ekklesia Foundation for Gender Education, a Christian organisation fighting for equality and justice for women and men in Kenya. They believe that the patriarchal worldview, perpetuated by cultural and religious beliefs, has a negative impact on human dignity, relationships, identity. This influences society in a way that isolates women from leadership, resource mobilisation/ownership, power, and decision making both in the family and in the wider society. Therefore, they are working to establish a just and peaceful society free of sexual and gender based violence, and where women have dignity and a voice.
As far as I know Domnic is not himself 'working' in a climate related field, but living in Kenya he is acutely aware of the struggles that climate change is causing for many. He is sharing with us what he has seen, what he knows to be true.
"Kenya, like many countries in Africa, is dependent on subsistence agriculture with a majority of women, with no formal employment, working all day round on small farms to get food for their families. Kenya, being a developing country, lacks adequate machineries and infrastructure to rise from environmental disasters."
The importance of rain
In Kenya subsistence farming (AKA farming to feed the farmer and the family, not for profit) is often dominated by women. This type of farming, without access to machinery or infrastructure, relies heavily on reliable rainfall and weather patterns. We in the UK don't really understand the importance of rain. It's more of a nuisance than anything else. We don't understand the importance of rain. But for Kenya's subsistence farmers rain is incredibly important. And climate change is having a devastating effect.
"A majority of rural women, with no formal employment who cultivate small scale farms, rely solely on rain water which has become painfully unreliable with current unreliable rainfall patterns. These women are by far the most vulnerable to climate change since they have a larger share of the agricultural workforce and in the face of frequent droughts, floods, destruction of agricultural land, they find it harder to access other income generating opportunities. In Kenya this year alone, rains delayed for almost one and half months, the country is devastated, millions of people are going hungry with women and children most affected. The harvest this year will automatically decrease almost by half."
Kenya's women farmers
As it is across the world, women often bear more heavily the consequences of issues such as poverty and conflict. Climate change is no different. As we have already seen women are heavily involved in subsistence farming, which is under threat from unreliable rainfall and changes to established weather patterns. In situations like these water becomes a precious and scarce resource, with a value higher than we in the UK could ever comprehend.
"Water becomes a limited resource, women and young girls walk many kilometers a day in search of water, and this means these young girls miss classes and school. According to the UN report, in sub-Saharan Africa a woman spends an average of 40 billion hours a year collecting water. While many women in my community can attest to this data, surely we must agree that this time could be used on other activities or bring income to the household.
"Conflicts between communities is common as a result of scarce recourses, posing a vulnerable environment for women. Crimes such as rape and domestic violence are on the rise in areas of environmental disasters. In some communities in Kenya, a woman is forced to exchange a gallon of water for sex leading to family disintegration and the spread of STIs and HIV Aids.
"Climate change has crippled women’s right to education, access to information and economic empowerment. This forced our own Wangari Mathai, a Nobel Prize winner, to fight the state from cutting down trees and educate the masses on the effects of climate change and the importance of environmental conservation, starting the Green Belt movement. It is important to involve women in the response to climate change, all the way from community projects to international policy making, otherwise she will always be held back for the lack of empowerment."
What can we do?
If, like me, reading Domnic's words has brought some reality to the idea of climate change then you're probably feeling pretty overwhelmed and unsure of what to do with this knowledge. I don't have the answers. But I have a few suggestions of things we can all do to help.
1. Support financially
I haven't ever given this suggestion on my blog before. However, considering the fact that the majority of us reading this do not live in Kenya, I thought that it would be remiss not to include a way of supporting climate change adaptation efforts on the ground.
You could give to the Green Belt movement by gifting a tree for $10.
JustDiggIt is an incredible charity in Kenya building rainwater bunds to help re-green the land.
2. Keep making changes
As you all know I am a firm believer that the actions we take do make a difference. If you disagree then have a look at why I believe this so strongly here. If you believe me, then why not think about the way that you live and whether there are things that you can change to live more sustainably.
A great thing to do is figure out your carbon footprint, the WWF have a great calculator that tells you where the majority of your emissions come from. From there you should be able to make some adjustments. If you want any advice holla at me. I'd love to chat about this more.
3. Learn some more
I recently bought 2 new books on climate change, I want to take my learning a bit more seriously since I talk about this stuff all the time. I finished the first - Greta Thunberg's little book is powerful and can be finished in one sitting. It's a collection of her speeches and is not only inspirational but informative too. Bonus: it only costs £3. Forgo a coffee and buy yourself this little book. You won't regret it.
The second book I've got is 'This Changes Everything' by Naomi Klein, which I hope to start this weekend. I chose this from a list of suggested climate books.
Why not pick a book and read it? The summer isn't over yet! ☀️
Thank you for reading this post, for hearing what Domnic had to share and for taking it in. I hope that it not only convinces you that this is real, but that you can do something about it too.