Friday, January 20, 2006

Adjusting to Climate Change in Africa

As climate change takes place, some nations will be better able to cope and adapt than others. This article below tells a sad story about how cow herders in Kenya are migrating far in search of rainy areas so that their cows can eat some grass. The problem is that these cows are entering wildlife parks competing with endangered species for food and perhaps grossing out the western eco-tourists.

I wonder if this article foreshadows future stories about how people in LDCs are coping with climate change. Clearly migration is one strategy but if property rights are not well define or are not enforced then congestion will take place in those parts of these nations that have suffered the least from climate change. I could imagine that this will exacerbate tensions between different groups if there is true scarcity of lands that receive ample rain and climate change exacerbates this scarcity.

For organizations such as the World Bank, what are effective loans it could make to such countries to help them cope with changing climate? This article does not mention climate change. I could be completely wrong about this trend playing a role in the low supply of rain in this region. Still, I do not think there has been enough research done on the question of how climate change might affect the spatial distribution of the population in various poor nations. Some Yale researchers have argued that if agricultural profits fall, that there will be more urbanization in such cities and this will exacerbate urban congestion. This point must generalize throughout Africa as people seek to escape their misfortune.


January 20, 2006
Chyulu Hills Journal
Where the Zebra and the Wildebeest Roam, Cows Do, Too
By MARC LACEY

CHYULU HILLS, Kenya, Jan. 13 - A new species, endangered in its own way, may soon join the black rhino, zebra, buffalo and wildebeest that roam this hilly reserve: the cow.

Vast herds of livestock, many of them feeble from the long journey here, are clustering around Chyulu Hills, an out-of-the-way park in southeastern Kenya several hours from Nairobi. They are also wandering into the park, prompting rangers to chase down and arrest the nomads watching over them.

"It's against the law," said Simon Mutuku, a ranger for the Kenya Wildlife Service at Chyulu Hills National Park. His job is the protect the park's two dozen black rhinos, some of the relatively few indigenous rhinos in Kenya to have survived rampant poaching in the 1970's.

The influx of cattle into nature parks is but one sign of a fierce drought that has devastated nomadic communities, especially those in the remote and neglected north and northeast. Desperate to save their herds, nomads have driven their cows into areas normally off limits, setting off a fierce debate in Kenya, which relies heavily on its unspoiled natural areas for tourism.

Drought is a regular feature in this part of the world, where the rains are fickle and the climate harsh. Just before Christmas, when Kenyans usually hold lavish holiday feasts, emaciated babies began appearing in hospitals in Wajir and Mandera, in the north. At least 40 people are reported to have died in recent weeks.

Kenya's drought is part of a crisis affecting millions in the Horn of Africa. The World Food Program has appealed for resources to feed 2.5 million people in Kenya, 1.4 million in Somalia, 1.5 million in Ethiopia and 60,000 in Djibouti.

"The emergency we face in the Horn today is the result of successive seasons of failed rains," Holdbrook Arthur, the group's regional director for eastern and central Africa, said in a statement. "Consequently, pastoralists living in these arid, remote lands have very few survival strategies left and require our assistance to make it through until the next rains."

As the Kenyan government and relief agencies scramble to respond, nomads have scattered in search of pasture and water for their herds. Tens of thousands of cows are now believed to be grazing in the forests around Mount Kenya, a popular draw for visitors. Cows have also approached and in some cases entered the grasslands at Nairobi National Park, Amboseli National Park and Tsavo East National Park.

As the suffering grows, pressure is building on the government to relax its ban on grazing in the parks. To drive home the point, herdsmen took about 60 cows to the Nairobi residence of President Mwai Kibaki on New Year's Day. During a drought in 2002, the former president, Daniel arap Moi, had opened the gates of the presidential compound to livestock, but Mr. Kibaki's guards rebuffed the herdsmen, who moved on to Uhuru Park, in the city center.

Francis X. ole Kaparo, speaker of the National Assembly, contends that the government ought to open protected areas to cattle until the crisis passes. "What would be the need of preserving forests and other natural resources when people are dying?" he asked at a recent news conference. "Of whose benefit will the resources be if people perish due to the current famine?"

But the tourism minister, Morris Dzoro, has argued against opening the parks, saying that Kenyans would suffer even more if tourism, a major source of foreign currency, were adversely affected, and that in any event, the reserves could provide only a tiny fraction of the grazing space needed by the cows.

Outside the Chyulu Hills reserve, herdsmen say they are losing dozens of cows each day. When the cows become so weak they can no longer stand, they are often abandoned on the road, where they lie for days until they die. Then they are skinned, with the hides providing a little compensation.

Given the difficulty of keeping them alive, cows are rapidly losing value. An animal that once fetched well over $100 is now going for a third of that, nomads say.

Lemaiyan Shangwa, one of the herdsmen camped on the outskirts of the reserve, said two of his brothers had been arrested for crossing park boundaries with the family cows. The fine in each case, he said, amounted to about one cow.

But the family's herd is dwindling by the day, Mr. Shangwa said. He had 250 cows a month ago, and now has only 54 still standing. "That's all my family has in the world," he said.

Mr. Shangwa said one elder saw so many of his cows die that he began crying openly, shocking all the other herdsmen, who are known for their stoic ways.

Simon Kipaipei, who has lost about 20 of his 200 cows, said the government had to act soon because the cows were becoming too weak to walk any further. The herdsmen gathered here now huddle with their livestock near water in Makindu, where the animals guzzle water meant for the local population.

Peter Njoroge, a water specialist with German Agro Action, predicts that Kenya's situation will grow still worse until more water resources are developed in remote communities. Until then, though, he sees the opening up of Chyulu Hills National Park to cattle as a sensible stopgap measure.

"Inside the game reserve there is grass," he said. "The herdsmen can see the grass. But they are told that the grass can't be eaten."

1 comment :

Calvin Jones said...

I have just put up a post with a series of links to the best blogs that i have found covering the Nairobi climate talks.

http://climatechangeaction.blogspot.com/2006/11/blogs-onfrom-unfccc-cop12-mop2-talks.html

I think some of these may be of interest. If you have any additions then let me know and I will append them.

It is my intention that this post serves as a hub for blog coverage of the talks, if you would like to link to the post that would be great. Many of these blogs are new and therefore difficult to find through technorati/google blog search, and I think there is some value in highlighting blogs that are from rather than mearly about the events unfolding.

Regards
Calvin Jones