What Climate Change Means To Female Pastoralist
By Catherine Nyambura and Sarah Kutahi
With the just commemorated World Environment Day on 5th June 2015, most people had hopes and aspiration emanating from the theme “Seven billion dreams, One planet, Consume with care”. It was celebrated in all manners seen fit by citizens of the world. We opted to stay vigilant. In our watch, we had an interesting encounter with Joyce Nasipei (not her real name), a lady from Kenya’s Kajiado County.
This year’s theme for the World Environment Day focused on the well-being of humanity and the environment that would be a result of responsible utilization of our natural resources. It is significantly important since it focuses on the interaction of every human being and their environment including environmental goods and services. The interaction of human beings with the environment is challenged by climate change. These changes have since the Rio Conference of 1992 0n Environment and Development led to the global shift in focus from development and poverty eradication to consideration of environment and development as impacting on one another hence the recent global trend in preparation of Climate change mitigation strategies and adaptation plans.
As it was listed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, very few governments have been able to alleviate poverty, meet water demand and ensure environmental sustainability. The targets for the MDGs were to be met by September 2015 and to pave way for the post 2015 plans. The post 2015 plans have changed to incorporate contemporaneous challenges like climate change and gender disparities which were not elaborated previously.
In our encounter with Joyce, she confessed to be well averse with Climate change as demonstrated by impacts of climate variability. The lady said that she cannot blame anyone for their dismay associated with climate change because the local people brought it upon themselves. In her opinion it is them who used up all the trees [acacia] as firewood and charcoal and now they are forced to travel long distances in search of firewood. Joyce said that women walk for a whole day, sometimes, in search of firewood. The opportunity cost is high.
If I were working for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change my task at that moment would be to stop this lady from being too hard on herself. The truth of the matter is that she and her community are not the only ones to blame. Admittedly, everybody is to blame for the climate change but the magnitude of the blame is not equal. The national and county governments in Kenya, for example, do not either provide adequately for alternative sources of energy to local communities, or avail information on the same. Likewise, research and technology development on the same is poorly funded.
According to Joyce, livestock keeping in Kajiado County is the main source of wealth and family incomes. She quickly recalls history that even during Muindi Mbigu’s time (during the colonial days); there was a deliberate move to destock in the wider Machakos District then. She added that these factors (deforestation and livestock keeping) have contributed to the “delay in rainfall”. This reasoning begs for some questions like whether the number of livestock in the given area and the amount of carbon emitted from industries in China or the entire European Union can be compared.
In pastoralist areas, local people feel the immediate effect when all the cover vegetation is wiped out by livestock but it does not arouse reaction. In their culture livestock is valued more than human life and dignity that is why young girls are married off in exchange for cows. The girl usually goes to the highest bidder which is never the case because the father gives in the moment he is approached by any suitor with cows. This includes older men who already have a number of wives. It is this value that they have put on livestock that endangers the lives of their women. Men move with the livestock to Tanzania, a bordering country, in search for pasture leaving behind their wives and children. These women who have been natured to be sceptic about being independent refuse to look for other means to keep their daughters in school and to also sustain themselves. It is worse today since they only manage to see their men a few days in one whole year.
The most anticipated long rains only rain for two days yet agricultural farms need more than that to give good yield. The short rains which use to calm dust devils no longer come. Tribal clashes have seen women and children lose their lives, since they do not have protection when their husbands leave. The clashes are usually over pasture for the livestock which are now decreasing unlike the number of cows which is on the rise. Girls also leave school to help their mothers in the search for firewood and water.
Professor Wangari Mathai In her struggle for the rights of women and the environment cannot be over looked in this debate. She won the Nobel Peace Prize because she touched on the nexus between environmental well being and the rights of women. Women are the poorest and the world’s farmers. That alone explains the danger women are subjected to. There is a famous African saying that emphasizes the empowerment of women “if you benefit a woman, the society benefits”
For those of you who resonate with matters when they are addressed by pop artists, do not mind if I mention that, ‘Ariana Grande’ an A-list celebrity wishes that women realized they do not belong to anyone and that they are more than enough on their own. She adds if only they realized the misogyny and double standards in their societies were poisonous to their well being, they would be on the forefront to fight social injustices and the effects on themselves.