Climate Crisis: Why Agroecology Matters

Leonida Odongo
Posted October 31, 2021 from Kenya

Climate change continues to ravage the African continent with damages ranging from loss of lives, livelihoods, disrupted learning for students, forced relocation and broken limbs. Climate crisis in Africa is happening in the midst of other existing crises such as  Ebola, food insecurity , wars and conflict and now Covid 19.The most vulnerable are the same people who cannot cushion themselves from the negative impacts of climate change , these are the fisherfolk, the marine ecosystem communities affected by rising sea levels , the smallholder farmers who have to contend with disrupted weather patterns , not knowing when it will next rain , not knowing when they will harvest and counting losses from desert locusts, a phenomenon that occurs when  arid areas receive more rainfall.

The frequency of  cyclones  increases year after year and the damages keep soaring .For example Tropical Cyclone Eloise caused havoc in Beira in Mozambique  in January  2021 resulting into huge losses in a locality that had previously been ravaged by Cyclone Idai.[1]Flooding has become an everyday occurrence in many African communities,  for example since January 2021, 669,000 people in Central Africa , in countries such Democratic Republic of Congo ,Central African Republic (CAR) and Ghana , have been affected trough heavy rainfall, floods , windstorms , displacements of 70,350 people , injuries occasioned by flooding as well as destruction of 77,000 homes.[2] In Gambia, since the beginning of the rainy season, windstorms and flash floods have killed 12 people and affected 109,000. Food stock losses have been significant, while erratic rainfalls affect farming, requiring increased food security-related preparedness[3].

Desert locusts affected countries included Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda and Somalia among others.[4]In their wake, the locusts left hefty effects on farmers and consumers at large. For example, in Kenya, the counties affected included Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Tana River, Lamu, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Kitui, Machakos, Kajiado, Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Laikipia, Nyandarua, Murang’a, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Isiolo, Samburu, and Marsabit[5].Desert locust infestation means hunger. Compounding the situation is that some of these affected areas are arid and semi-arid, thus compounding access to food for already vulnerable groups. With the locust infestation, the damage was huge, destruction of crops on huge tracts of land, at first farmers would chase off the swarms by making noise to scare them but when the farmers got overwhelmed, they were forced to watch as their hard earned labour got devoured in minutes.

For fishing communities in Africa, climate change means reduced fish stocks, it means fish migrating deeper into the water bodies, it means less reproduction of fish, it also means death of fish because when water bodies get heated, they hold less oxygen used by the fish to breath, it further means fisherfolk travelling for longer distances to catch fish, reduced stocks also imply disrupted livelihoods. In the mix is also the phenomenon  of sexual predation  where women fishmongers are forced to exchange sex for fish , this happens particularly when there is less fish .Cultural beliefs about women and fishing abound in many communities for example Kenya, women are not allowed to fish , it is believed that when fish sense the female gender they run away , so women symbolize “bad luck” and are only expected to buy fish from the fisherfolk .Due to disrupted supply of fish women are forced to exchange sex   to be provided with fish , this phenomenon is known as jaboya , among the Luo , community , a River Lake Nilotic community living along Lake Victoria .

For marine ecosystem communities destroyed mangroves to pave way for beachfront hotels means communities have no buffer zones in case of rising sea levels, flooding means lost livelihoods. In Kenya for example flooding in the Rift Valley region affected 18 schools and 5,000 learners[6].Families got displaced, crops got washed away in addition to disrupted education.

For pastoralist communities, climate change means migration in search of water and pasture, it means conflict as pastoralists and farmers clash over grazing resources, when livestock eat farm produce violence erupts as has been the case of the Pokomo and Orma[7] in Kenya’s Tana River delta[8].It also means increased displacement and emergence of Internally Displaced Persons, and in this majority of those who suffer are women and children. Climate change is a gender based violence issue at the household level. During drought, women travel longer distances in search of water, when they come back home late, fights ensue and the woman’s fidelity is questioned, some are asked “how many hours does it take you to fetch a bucket of water?. For persons with disability and the elderly, climate change many mean deaths by drowning, especially when they cannot move from raging waters or their houses get affected by mudslides.

In Africa, agriculture is the backbone of the economy of most countries, agriculture is the major According to the 2019 State of Food Security and Nutrition (SOFI) report, the number of people affected by malnourishment and chronic deprivation is climbing for the fourth consecutive year: 821 million persons suffered from undernourishment in 2018, an increase from 785million in 2015. Women represent around 43% of the agriculture labor force, despite lacking equal access to the productive resources necessary for farming (SOFI 2019) .Families operate approximately nine out of ten farms globally and 80% of the world food is produced on small-scale family farms, where women play a key role in all stages of food production: from seed collection[9], land preparation, weeding, harvesting and storage, to food processing, livestock rearing and fisheries, including net weaving, fish catching, packaging and fish trading. Women in rural areas are also traditionally responsible for household and reproductive labor, spending up to 10 hours a day caring for the nutritional health and well-being of children, families and communities, cleaning and cooking, fetching water, fodder and fuel. Climate change means less food for households, especially those who depend on agriculture as a source of income, it means the indignity of begging for relief food. In Africa, hunger is increasing at an alarming rate. The Covid 19 pandemic, conflict, drought, economic woes, and extreme weather are reversing years of progress. As of 2019, 234 million sub-Saharan Africans were chronically undernourished, more than in any other region. In the whole of Africa, 250 million people were experiencing hunger, which is nearly 20% of the population[10].

Africa’s cumulative contribution to the global emissions lies between 2-3 percent [11] and unfortunately, the continent is being bombarded by false solutions to climate crisis. Africa is further facing an unnecessary burden of being heavily impacted by climate crisis. The false solutions being peddled in the continent include carbon offsetting, promotion of monoculture which is about intensified chemical fertiliser use and a mono-crop system which is dangerous to biodiversity. The chemicals being promoted in monoculture agricultural production not only harms the environment but ends up in our food and water.

Against this bleak reality, agroecology , a science, practice and a movement comes in to address the ravages of climate crisis within the continent .Through a variety of practices anchored on nature and regeneration, agroecology brings biodiversity back through planting of variety of plant species and keeping multiple livestock types , it is about understanding one’s environment , understanding our soil , using the locally available resources such as composting to enhance soil fertility instead of pumping our land with chemicals. Agroecology is about selecting and saving indigenous seeds for the next planting season instead of depending on the agrovets for seeds that a farmer will not replant the next season, it is about not going to a pharmacy when sick but depending on farmacy (eating healthy food from our land) which has nutrients as opposed to ingesting additives over the counter in chemist shops.

In Africa, agroecology is tried and tested, it is healing our land and bringing the earthworms, bees and butterflies, it is creating safe spaces for farmers to organise, to advocate for healthy food and to have a voice on issues that affect them.

Indeed, to avert the current climate crisis the future ought to be AGROECOLOGICAL

References

[1] https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/tropical-cyclone-eloise-hits-mozamb...

[2] https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/west-and-central-...

[3] ibid

[4] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/locust-plague-climate...

[5] https://www.uonbi.ac.ke/news/desert-locust-situation-kenya

[6] https://www.the-star.co.ke/counties/rift-valley/2020-08-20-lake-baringo-...

[7] http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/handle/11295/109798   

[8] https://www.kenyanews.go.ke/farmers-in-tana-river-step-up-efforts-to-mit...

[9] For more information on the role of women as guardians of seeds, illustrated by the example from Africa, please see: Pschorn-Strauss, Elfrieda. "African Food Sovereignty: Valuing Women and the Seed They Keep", Right to Food and Nutrition Watch (2016): 49-51. Available at: www.righttofoodandnutrition.org/african-food-sovereignty

[10] https://www.worldvision.org/hunger-news-stories/africa-hunger-famine-facts

[11] https://unfccc.int/files/press/backgrounders/application/pdf/factsheet_africa.pd

This story was submitted in response to Protecting Our Planet.

Comments 9

Log in or register to post comments
Jill Langhus
Nov 01, 2021
Nov 01, 2021

Hi Leonida,

Thanks for spreading awareness on agroecolory and for being such a fierce advocate for climate change... we need more of you:-)

Leonida Odongo
Nov 02, 2021
Nov 02, 2021

Thank you Jill

Best

Leonida

Jill Langhus
Nov 03, 2021
Nov 03, 2021

You're welcome, dear.

MUKABA ZAWADI
Nov 05, 2021
Nov 05, 2021

Merci pour le partage de votre histoire c'est une bonne initiation. Courage va de l'avant ma chère

Leonida Odongo
Nov 07, 2021
Nov 07, 2021

Dear Zawadi,

Thank you for reading .

Best

Leonida

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 06, 2021
Nov 06, 2021

Dear Leonida,
I hope your story travels far and wide as a wakeup call on global warming and especially the agricultural disasters that gigantic and rich companies like Monsanto have caused by forcing farmers who were farming sustainably turn to buying seed that cannot reproduce itself, and expensive fertilizers that take away from compost practises. There are farmers globally who have been pushing back as you are. I farmed for 20 years, organically, and am so happy to read about the agroecokogy project. It is essential that we all find ways to promote and make possible sustainable farming, and work together to end this global destruction of our planet, and the food scarcity that affects so many. Thank you too for these links. May we share your story further?

Leonida Odongo
Nov 07, 2021
Nov 07, 2021

Dear Tam,

Thank you for the encouragement.

Please share as widely as possible .

Best

Leonida

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 07, 2021
Nov 07, 2021

Will do. So important for everyone to work together to stop these big companies and to support agroecology. You have given us such important information. All the best.

Grace Iliya
Nov 15, 2021
Nov 15, 2021

Thank you for sharing dear.