Involve rural peasant farmers in ongoing discussions, climate champions insist

Monicah Yator (speaking), Founder of Indigenous Women and Girls Initiative (IGWI) during a forum with women in Baringo County. She advocates for the involvement of women, indigenous people and rural people on discussions around climate change. PHOTO/Courtesy.
  • In the history of African Climate, past experiments have shown that humans produced carbon dioxide and other gases, especially during the 1800s, harming the atmosphere. 
  • Empowering women in agriculture by providing appropriate technology and resources is also paramount. 
  • In Baringo, farmers were affected after being supplied with maize seeds that are not climate resistant, increasing vulnerability and impacts of climate change in Kenya.

As the Africa Climate Summit is ongoing in Nairobi, Kenya, Article 36 Committee, a committee in the social justice system that advocates for issues in adequate food, social security, safe and clean water, and quality education for all, had a discussion with climate-friendly partners from all over Africa to try and breakdown what climate change is, its effects, how it is felt and how to go about and what exactly the summit is expected to benefit the country in mitigating climate change.

Diana Mercy, a member of the Social Justice Movement and Convener of Women in Justice, Western Chapter, is one of the representatives from among those from Kajiado, Baringo, Nairobi and Coast region Chapters.

“Climate change is the natural shift in temperatures and weather patterns,” she says.

Since the 1800s, she says human activities have been the leading cause of climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels. 

In the history of African Climate, past experiments have shown that humans produced carbon dioxide and other gases, especially during the 1800s, harming the atmosphere. 

This was met with more curiosity than concern.

The invited panelist was Monicah Yator, Founder of the Indigenous Women and Girls Initiative (IGWI) in Baringo. 

Ms. Yator says in Baringo, IGWI’s key actions are the introduction of agro-ecology for Climate Change Action to build community resilience and ensure that women who are peasant farmers and girls benefit from the benefits of agro-ecology. 

“The agro-ecology and farmer culture model,” she says, “have been introduced too in various schools to ensure that there is intergenerational knowledge transfer.” 

She says this is to advocate for food and sustainable agricultural production.

Climate justice

Another panelist, Leonida Odongo, Founder of Haki Nawiri Africa, says the four main pillars they focus on are: Food justice, climate justice, and gender justice and youth engagement. 

In climate justice, they engage in policies and build capacities of communities in agro-ecology. 

This is to address the negative impact of climate change.

Leonida Odongo, Regional Seed Fair at Zoungbonou in Benin Seeds Festival. 25 countries have been represented at the fair including Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, Benin, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Cote Ivoire, Guinea Conakry and other countries. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Haki Nawiri documents community realities as far as climate change is concerned and takes it to the global spaces like the civil society and indigenous peoples.

It also participates in policies to bring the voices of women and children out on climate change, and the voices of the marginalized communities, those in informal settlements and indigenous people, and women, who are mostly excluded from climate negotiations.

Judy Kipkenda, another panelist, says she is from the Indigenous Ogiek People of Kenya, found in Baringo County. 

She is also the Founder of Koibatek Ogiek Women and Youth Network (KOWYN) and represents the Global Indigenous Youth in the climate change crisis discussion, where she serves as the Regional focal point. 

In KOWYN, they focus on environmental recreation, agro-ecology, and the eradication of gender-based violence, among other issues that affect the communities. 

In the Global Indigenous Youth, they try to bring the voices of all indigenous people from all over the world. 

As the coordinator of the African Region, it is her work to ensure that they have a common voice to address issues that affect them.

Women’s role in restoring climate in Kenya

Ms. Yator says women play a crucial role in restoring the environment. When women do not produce and feed their families, there will be a breakdown. 

“Coming from a semi-arid place where there are floods and no food or cattle, everyone will be looking at a woman to provide food. So, women are almost 90% providers of every household and thus important to involve women in climate change crisis and actions,” she adds.

She says denying them an opportunity at the decision-making table is a form of gender-based violence and thus is crucial in climate change discussions.

Empowering women in agriculture by providing appropriate technology and resources is also paramount. 

This will reduce poverty and help individuals better adapt to the effects of climate change.

Other than planting trees to help restore the climate in the communities, there are other ways we can use to mitigate climate change.

According to Ms. Yator, climate action is about agroforestry, crop action, food sovereignty, and biodiversity and not about planting trees.

“I challenge the president of Kenya, William Ruto, that planting of 15 billion trees is not a solution. What if we decide to later cut them down for charcoal?” she says. 

How do we challenge climate mitigation? We have to talk about adaptation as well. 

She says in Baringo, charcoal burning is worsening and millions of youths are trafficking charcoal for sale. 

Ms. Yator insists that there is a need to talk about climate adaptation, which includes intercropping, through sustainable farming in agroecology, which in turn brings sustainable farming that includes the planting of crops.

Climate restoration is not about planting trees alone, it is about integrating trees with crops. 

It is about providing soil cover to prevent erosion; it is about preventing floods, harvesting water and making our farmers produce food.

According to Ms. Kipkenda, it is about time we started avoiding deforestation and talked about afforestation to try and protect trees from being cut down.

Judy Kipkenda (in the middle), Founder Koibatek Ogiek Women and Youth Network (KOWYN) focusing on Agro-cology, with other women in Bariingo. PHOTO/Courtesy.

She says the other new agenda is the transition to renewable energy and the shift from using fossil fuel to the use of solar power, wind power and so on.

She says reducing public transport by walking and cycling more will be another alternative to planting trees to mitigate climate change.

Involve rural people in combating climate change

Ms. Yator says that it is important to have the climate change forum be understood by all. Such summits and fora should not be held in cities and the language use should be diverse for all to understand.

With the ongoing climate summit in Nairobi, themed Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World, Ms. Yator says these climate change spaces show that it is meant for those that have gone to school. Most people will have a difficult time understanding it.

Another challenge is how discussing finance implications of climate is of impact when the people in the village are not part of the conversation.

“I urge our president to hear indigenous people and rural communities, for the conversation to bring our children to pay attention to the value of climate change as they grow up,” Ms. Yator adds.

Climate change has also affected food systems in Kenya.

In Baringo, farmers were affected after being supplied with maize seeds that are not climate resistant, increasing vulnerability and impacts of climate change in Kenya.

Millions of Africans depend on farming and failed rains spell disaster.

In terms of food, Ms. Odongo says it is important to think of pastoralists, whose cattle die of hunger, leading them to live in poverty.

“There is no dignity in begging for food. Pastoralists from Kenya are going to Tanzania and their cattle are being confiscated,” she adds.

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The conversations goes on and on, but these champions of climate change are hoping that their issues will be heard in this ongoing summit.

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Janet Kiriswo is A Multi-lingual certified professional Journalist (English, Swahili and Native Kalenjin). Holder of a Bachelor`s degree in PR & Communication skills from Moi University, A Diploma in Mass Communication from The Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, (KIMC), with over 15 years active experience in the media industry. She thrives in covering stories matters that touches on Business, Health, community, Culture and Traditional issues and progress, Politics, Interviews and leaderships among others. She poses other skills in Public Relationship, Communication consultant, Radio presentation, broadcasting, visual feature stories, video/voice recording and editing among others. She strongly believes in changing the world through Communication.


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