I grew up in a tough environment where basic necessities like food (three meals a day) and clothing were mere luxuries just like many Kenyans. Life constantly handed me lemons when I really needed oranges thus, I understand the plight of Kenyans who are struggling to put food on the table.
I sympathise with mothers who are struggling to feed their young ones and are crying out to the Government to urgently act on the cost of basic food commodities like maize flour, milk, sugar among others. The young people who work for me and those who reach out to me on social media share the same plight and have asked me numerous times to reach out to the leaders of the Government to find a solution.
While Kenya and the horn of Africa have experienced the worst drought in decades, I am glad that the President has responded to this challenge by recalling MPs to pass a supplementary budget and debate other measures to curb the rising cost of living.
Early in the year, the President also declared the drought a national disaster to allow for more concerted efforts to curb its extreme effects. During the budget reading, Cabinet Secretary of National Treasury, Henry Rotich announced a waiver of duty on maize imported for the next four months.
The Government through the Ministry of Environment and Regional Development Authorities under the leadership of Cabinet Secretary Prof. Judy Wakhungu has done some tremendous work. I was impressed when I heard that the county’s forest cover has increased by 5.3 percent in four years to hit 7%. In 2013, the forest cover was about 1% and this goes to show that Kenya is making an impact in the area of afforestation and conservation of the environment.
Additionally, over 400,000 hectares of degraded public land has been rehabilitated as part of the Government’s strategy to combat desertification. Further, Kenya is among the only countries in the continent with a climate change Act.
In as much as we have a huge problem at hand, I believe in solutions. We must not scavenge from the genuine suffering of Kenyans but believe in the ability of Kenyans as a people to reject the cynicism that is being poured in their souls.
Yes, times are tough but in addition to the short-term measures that are being implemented, we must comprehensively deal with the root causes of what we are currently facing.
Africa is extremely vulnerable to climate change due to its low adaptive capacity. As the Government works on the long term plan, what are we doing as private citizens in our small capacity to change the drought narrative in the future?
Maybe we need to start small; plant trees, rethink how we use water in our homes and look into other methods of conserving our environment?
Let’s get this right, drought is not an African problem; it is a global challenge. Drought and desertification, exacerbated by climate change are common occurrences in places like Israel and Australia (which are developed countries).
Like the countries which have mastered their environment, Kenya needs to invest more in new methods and best practices of farming so that we adapt to the changing climate. By using technologies such as drip-irrigation and solar-powered solutions so that we constantly harvest produce then we will not end up being victims of climate change. If solar and drip irrigation solution is too expensive for ordinary Kenyans, we can still choose from the low-tech options such as switching away from drought-sensitive crops like maize to more resilient ones such as cassava, sorghum, millet among others.
As a people, we must be willing to adapt to survive. The cultural attachment we have to certain crops and dietary choices needs to change to keep up with the climatic changing trends.
After the long period of drought that we experienced, we have finally been blessed with a heavy downpour but have we really developed mechanisms to harness the rain water or are we waiting for another disaster?
For example, Nairobi County’s water need capacity is growing rapidly. This has led to acute water rationing paralysing businesses and exposing many to diseases yet when the heavens open up, the waters lead to destruction.
Harvesting rainwater across the country can be done in an individual capacity by buying water tanks and digging dams to utilise the water for domestic and agricultural usage.
I want to call on all flour millers, sugar dealers, supermarkets and those who trade in basic commodities to stir their corporate responsibility and patriotic sides during these tough times. Humongous profit margins must take a back seat. The time to come together and fasten the belt of frugality is now as we cross the rivers of tribulations of the high cost of living that has faced this nation in recent times.
To Kenyans and the political class, we cannot always point fingers. Long term solutions to the problems we are facing will only be found if we put our heads together and work towards a better Kenya. This nation will be inherited by our future generations. Let us not live in it like it is hired property leaving the landlord to care for it. We are the landlords. Name calling, blame game, political scavenging on genuine problems is what failed states do. We are not one and it is the time we stopped behaving like one.
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” John F. Kennedy.