James Kitavi recently stood on top of a hill on his 10-acre farm in Mui Basin, Kitui County in Kenya and proudly surveyed his expansive farm.
In a few days’ time earthmovers would rumble into this virgin land, just one among those earmarked for a multi-billion dollar coal mining project, and probably turns his life up-side-down.
As he majestically walked around the place he has called home all his life, his right ear pinned to an old transistor radio, various thoughts raced through his mind. A few weeks earlier he had been informed by the government that he was going to be compensated and relocated, and he wondered how that would change his life.
The arrangement did not sound that bad. Compensation meant money, and lots of it, and recently he had heard of how poor peasants a few hundreds of kilometres away in Mtito Andei, Makueni County had become overnight millionaires after their farms were acquired by the government for the Kenya-Uganda Standard Gauge Railway project.
His rosy thoughts and plans on how he would spend the windfall were interrupted by an announcement over his small, hand-held radio that Non-Governmental Organisations were calling for divestiture from fossil fuel.
He knew what that meant: If the government listened to the placard-waving, conference-attending green activists, his windfall would not come. The idea that he was about to kiss goodbye the twin evils of poverty and inequality was beginning to sound like yet another pipe dream!
Kitavi is just one among millions of people around the globe whose countries are endowed with huge fossil fuel deposits, and who fear their expectations could be shattered unless calls for divesting from fossil fuels are handled in a sober and realistic manner.
Fossil fuels are in three categories; oil that is mainly used for transport, the gas used mainly for cooking and heating, and coal, mainly used for electricity generation.