On 11th and 12th of June 2019, all roads for a moment led to HIPSIR for a two-day conference. The turnout was impressive: 500+ participants representing different constituencies and social interests.
The first day was dedicated to a conversation on the effects of climate change on the two river basins in Kenya, out of its six; i.e., River Tana and Athi River ecosystems. The conference speakers and participants before and during the breakaway sessions examined the effects of climate change along these two river ecosystems and how livelihoods have been impacted negatively especially access to water. River Tana Basin ecosystem alone covers 22% of the total land mass of the entire county. This ecosystem also supports over 8 million Kenyans; and what is more, the river discharges over 50% of its waters to the Indian Ocean. This is a massive ecosystem that is recognized internationally including by the Wetlands International. It is a delicate ecosystem that our climate inappropriate human activities have exacerbated the existing strain and pressure, thus affecting not only poor communities along the two river ecosystems but also wildlife and CITES endangered species.
Hakimani Centre with the support of its development partner DFID (Department for International Development) and UK-Aid through Deepening Democracy Program based here in Nairobi rolled out a climate smart water governance project initially in two counties but later expanded to include 14 more counties. The project aim was simple: nurturing climate-resilient communities along the two river ecosystems. To be climate resilient and climate smart requires, among many other things, three fundamentals: first, is adaptation, i.e., to ensure our practices and behaviors adapt to the vagaries of the climate change taking advantage of floods to prepare for the long droughts. Adaptation also means growing crops and keeping livestock that are climate resilient or tolerant to droughts or simply harvesting rain water and storing it; second, to be climate resilient means to manage the natural resources and the environment in a judicious climate smart manner i.e., the protection of the Upper Catchment areas such as the Upper Tana (Kenya Highlands), re-vegetation of the degraded land or semi-arid forests and depleted tree cover in middle Tana and Athi Rivers and the protection and preservation of the lower Tana and Athi delta areas; third, climate resilient communities also means resolving the emerging conflicts over the dwindling resources such as water and grazing land in a non-violent way. In recent times, inter-county conflicts over these two shared ecosystems have intensified, with each county claiming to own the source and the abstraction of water and threatening to cut-off head-waters coursing to the next county; besides, there have been inter-ethnic conflicts that have turned violent over the same shared resources.
So, Hakimani proposed an integrated inter-county policy framework anchored on the Constitution of Kenya 2010 because water has no substitute unlike food or even clothing. The proposed integrated inter-county policy framework should lead to enhanced protection of the Upper Catchment areas, the re-vegetation of the degraded middle areas of the two ecosystem and the preservation of the lower or basins of the two-river ecosystem. The integrated framework also means resolving conflicts in a non-violent way and investing massively but progressively in climate change in order to make our most vulnerable communities’ climate smart and climate resilient.
In the second day, speakers and the participants dwelt on two equally important topics from our research findings: Food Security and Value-Based Education.
For the former, the analytical recommendation was to move from the unhelpful perception that food is a basic need to food as a basic right. This is a significant shift: From Basic Need Approach to Rights Based Approach. This shift means many things: the obligation upon the duty bearers in ensuring food is accessible, affordable and sufficiently healthy; it means the protection of the small-holder farmers from the middle men and the politics of larceny around food importation such as the annual ritual of maize importation; it means that there is a guaranteed subsidy to farmers who should first produce to feed the nation and not to sell; and it also means the shift from livestock keeping to livestock farming, taking cue from advanced countries like New Zealand and Australia.
Finally, on the latter topic, there was heated debated and endless recommendations as participants decried on the one-sided educational system that the country has adopted. Education should be holistic, integrated and complement the efforts of parents, guardians and the Church in forming the character of its future citizen by investing in value-based education for our children. The gains from value-based education in recreating and sustaining a civic culture, civic virtues and improving both the public good and the common good cannot be gainsaid.
The two-day conference was also live streamed. The local dailies and media houses also picked up the conversation. The attendance of both government officials and professors from universities and personalities from various organizations set the tempo and raised the quality of discussion that led to the proposed critical recommendations. There is, therefore, more work for Hakimani Centre: first to share the research findings and the recommendations from the Conference with other Social Centers in JCAM; and secondly, to make a rigorous follow-up on new directions that the discussions opened up.
Article By Elizabeth
JENA Communications officer