Global warming and Africa.

Author:Versi, Anver
Position:Climate Change Conference of United Nations - Editorial

Africa has the most to lose from climate change. This was the grim message emanating from the UN's major Climate Change Conference in Nairobi mid last month.

The irony, as Achim Steiner, the executive director of the UN Environment Programme pointed out is that "Africa has made the lowest contribution to climate change", yet "it is also the least prepared to cope with the consequences and has the most to lose."

This is a very serious cause for concern. When you add the effects of climate change to Africa's already distressed farmlands--as this month's cover story reveals--the outlook over the next 30 years seems bleak.

The conference in Nairobi--the first of its kind in Africa--was attended by over 6,000 delegates from 189 countries. As the delegates deliberated over the threats posed by global warming and other negative aspects of climate change, a significant segment of Kenya's population was already struggling to cope with the impact of climate change.

Research commissioned by Christian Aid indicates that the first real victims of climate change were to be found only a few hundred miles from the site of the conference in Nairobi. These are the country's approximately three million pastoralists. Their way of life, a system that has sustained them for thousands of years, is being wiped out.

Kenya's pastoralists, including the Maasai, the Boran, the Kalenjin the Somali and others have always inhabited the semi-arid areas of Kenya and Tanzania. These areas are always prone to periodic draughts but these redoubtable herders, relying on knowledge accumulated and passed down generation after generation, have always managed to come through.

But now they appear to have hit the end of the road. As a result of global warming which has changed rainfall patterns, they had had to endure unrelenting draught. The old ways of life can no longer be sustained and more and more of them are changing their modes of living.

Experts believe that the nomadic pastoralists' fascinating mode of life may not last more than a couple of decades at best. These are the people of the wide open spaces--calculating their wealth in the number and condition of their animals.

It is a cruel irony that such people, so beautifully attuned to nature, demanding so little from it and paying back whatever they take almost immediately and with interest, should be the victims of a climate change disaster caused by the irresponsible polluting activities of people thousands of miles...

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