A to Z on Drought

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“For me, one of the major reasons to move beyond just the planting of trees was that I have a tendency to look at the cause of the problem. We often preoccupy ourselves with the symptoms, whereas if we went to the root cause of the problems, we could be able to overcome the problem one and for all.”  – Wangari Maathai

Kenya is currently facing a water shortage in major cities as the drought creeps in fervently. Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is facing a huge water crisis as Ndakaini dam’s (the city’s water source) water level drops. Other parts of the country are experiencing extreme drought conditions. Today on the A to Z series we will discuss several ways to mitigate future water crises, food security and the effects of drought as a whole as well as several terms used.

Agriculture

Agriculture is the main source of food acquisition more so in African countries. With shifting weather patterns bringing unpredictable rains, farming, especially for small scale farmers, has seen devastating moments as relying on regular rains at specific times of the year is not dependable.  These has resulted to loss of agricultural produce over the years and has affected farmers in many parts of the country who have always relied on regular rainfall patterns.

Sustainable agriculture is therefore the way to go in this changing times to ensure food security in our countries.

Sustainable agriculture aims to meet a nation’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Methods used seek to promote soil health, minimize water use, and lower pollution levels.

Biotechnology

Biotechnology is any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives to make or modify products or processes for specific use.

Biotechnology can henceforth be used to increase availability of food by modifying seeds and animal genetics which can tolerate drought conditions hence securing our future food resources.

Climate Change

Almost everything is attributed to climate change in our current lifetime. Climate change being the change of climate (the average weather conditions of a given place over a time period of at least 30 years) at given locations, such as, increasing temperature or precipitation, and/or in patterns of, for example, pressure.

What causes climate change?

Climate change could be as a result of both natural and human-induced changes.

Human induced climate change causes are; burning of fossil fuels releasing CO2 , deforestation, agricultural methane production and land use change among others.

Natural induced climate change causes are; ocean circulation variation, selected cataclysmic events, asteroids, massive volcano, ice-sheet collapse, variation to solar input, speculated inherent solar variability and orbital variability among other causes.

Drought

Drought is not a new scene in Kenya with the last one being experienced in 2009-2010 which lead to mass loss of people and animals alike, both wild and domestic.

Drought is a period of below average precipitation in a given region. Effects of the low precipitation include prolonged shortages in water supply, whether atmospheric, surface water or ground water. This eventually results to famine and hunger due to lack of water for irrigation in affected regions and death of livestock and wild animals.

Deforestation, poor land use planning as well as excessive irrigation are human activities which result to drought other than climate change.

Economy

Drought has impeding effects on a country’s economy.

These include lower crop yield, reduced carrying capacity of livestock, lower wildlife, forests and fishing productions, higher food production costs, lower energy production levels in hydro power (currently being experienced in the country) and problems with water supply for both industrial and domestic use.

A vacuum is created between developed and developing countries when a drought occurs more so in developing countries. Huge expenses are directed to the crisis at hand (food relief, water supply, energy production) instead of projects which could endorse the economy of a country.

Food security

For a country to progress its people need to be fed. The food need not be in surplus but provide basic nutritional needs and how to access it.

Long term measures to improve food security globally include investing in modern agricultural techniques and strategic food storage methods.

Groundwater

Ground water is an important natural resource derived from precipitation. It can be found in layers, cracks and spaces of soil and rock known as aquifers.

Ground water is fresh water and therefore can be used by people.

Human population

The human population is increasing at a faster rate. This places pressure on natural resources. Understanding we need to create a balance between the needs of humans and other living organism will ensure coexistence with all living organisms.

Irrigation

For irrigation to be sufficient the techniques used need to cause minimal negative environmental effects such as drought and be able to support food security.

Irrigation techniques such as the use of sprinkler and micro- irrigation reduce the risk of erosion.

Justify (Why we should care)

The effects of drought play a huge role in the water supply of communities as well as damage crops, other vegetation and reduce wildlife population numbers.

Kenya’s Forests

Kenya has a good number of forests which serve as water towers. This include the Mau Forest Complex, Aberdare Forest, Kakamega Forest and Arabuko Sokoke forests which are among the largest (size) forests in the country. Other forested areas include Karura forest, Cherengani Hills Forests, Witu forest amongst others.

Forest provide a variety of ecosystem services which include converting carbon dioxide to oxygen and biomass (carbon sink), purifying water, regulating climate and mitigating natural disasters (floods).

Kenyan forests ensure a continuous supply of water both surface and ground water and also reduce the effects of climate change.

Livestock (Cattle Complex)

Drought is not favorable, even to the animals. The pastoralists’ community face the loss of livestock every day during this period. Many go without a source of dependence when they see their livestock (source of pride) die one at a time.

One may question; why don’t they eat the livestock instead of watching them die? That is watching food die!

Cattle and other livestock is highly regarded and considered of greater value alive among the pastoralists. The larger the number of livestock the wealthier one is.

To prevent losses of livestock during drought, the pastoralists should be encouraged to sell their livestock at a price which they can buy cattle back when the climatic conditions are fair. This would improve the livelihoods of the communities and hence forth the economy of a country (ripple effect).

Malnutrition

This is the result of famine caused by drought. The lack of proper nutritional needs the average child and adult requires.

Natural Resource

Water is a natural resource, a very valuable resource. 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by liquid water. 95.6% of this is held in our oceans making 96% of saline water present leaving only 4% that is fresh water.

Access to safe drinking water is essential to all life forms; humans, animals, plants, fungi and even bacteria.

Water plays a central role to the world’s economy with the access of safe drinking water being reflected in the gross domestic product per capita.

Over exploitation

Natural resources have been profoundly exploited. Forests are slowly becoming plantations resulting to limited or no drainage systems as rivers and streams dry up.

As the population grows, yes we need food, but proper legislation needs to be adhered to and implemented prevent future crisis’ such as famine.

Pollution

Water pollution has affected many rivers and lakes in the country, with industries releasing their waste into water resources. This affects the people who depend on this resources whether for drinking, farming and even fishing.

Chemicals present in the released waste are toxic to any living organism especially through food chain magnification.

Quality

The quality of water as a natural resource used in domestic or industrial use affects a population in either a positive or negative way. This hinders the access of clean and safe drinking water which is detrimental to the economy of a country.

Reforestation

To reduce the effects of climate change, reforestation programs need to be considered and executed.

Solar energy

The sun is energy and utilizing it would increase the energy production levels as we will not need to only rely on water to produce energy.

Treatment

To reduce the chances of water borne disease, which is the cause of deaths especially among the younger and older generations, treatment of water is crucial to ensure safe clean drinking water.

Utilize

Natural resources need to be utilized to ensure future generation also gets to benefit from them.

Vegetation cover

Erosion is a major problem affecting most areas leading to loss of natural vegetation. Vegetation cover reduces the effects erosion.

Wetlands

Wetlands hold a lot amount of water as they act as ‘sponges’ releasing water underground (ground water) to wells, aquifers and even dams, rivers and lakes. Wetlands also store carbon (carbon sequestration), stabilize climatic conditions and control pests.

Xenobiotic

This pertains to a chemical compound foreign to and not produced by an organism. (In relation to water pollution.)

Years from now

“We all share one planet and are one humanity, there is no escaping this reality” – Wangari Maathai

We should seek to consider future generations that come after us. What will they say we did, good or bad? What will they learn from us, our mistakes or our progress? Will they fight for limited resources or will they learn to preserve what they find?

“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future” – Dian Fossey

Zoogeography

Animals are distributed differently in relation to the geographic zones. Water, being the source of life for most if not all living organisms, competition for this resource will emerge between man, his livestock and wildlife, especially during drought. To reduce conflicts, especially with snakes, available water should be kept outside or in open areas to prevent collisions with the species.

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to vicki@nyikasilika.org or vickiwangui26@gmail.com.

2 Comments

  1. […] is a case which can be avoided or mitigated as earlier stated, but what happens when the voiceless (wild life) cannot speak, when there is little to no […]

  2. […] service. With no forest cover the probability of drought will be inevitable as clearly put here. What our country is currently experiencing is the lack of interest, to some extent knowledge, and […]

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