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Weather reports key to Africa's climate changes' adaptation
 
Written by Florence Sipalla | 07 December 11
 
 

"This is your weather forecast and I am Nguatah Francis." In the 90s, Kenyans were accustomed to hearing this introductory statement at the tail end of the state broadcast news. Little changed over the years about the timing or format of the weather reports, maybe that contributed to why Kenyans attached little importance to these forecasts?

Few Kenyans paid attention. It was not uncommon to see people carrying umbrellas on an extremely hot day as they anticipated rain. This was the urban dweller, the manzi wa Nairobi (city girl) who wore sandals and white trousers on a day when the streets of Nairobi were bound to be muddy. Yet, what about the rural woman, the subsistence farmer who needed the forecast to know when to plant the precious seeds saved from the last harvest to get the best yield?

Kenya's minister for environment and natural resources, John Michuki underlined the importance of accurate meteorological information in the quest to address climate change at one of the COP17 side events. This need motivated the formation of the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCONET).

"Meteorology is central information needed to address the effects of climate change," said Michuki, adding that this information impacts food security and adaptation to climate change, issues that many African countries are grappling with.

According to Michuki, meteorological information would enable us tap into Africa's potential to produce clean and green energy. "We have a high potential for natural energy that remains unexploited," said the minister. He indicated that the Kenyan energy ministry has instituted a law to have all new buildings fitted with solar panels for water heating.

Michuki also said that the country is currently exploring other sources of green energy, such as geothermal power and wind energy. Kenya hosts one of the largest wind farms, the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, that is set to produce 300MW of clean energy that will go into the national grid.

Ninety percent of Kenya's rural populace lives in the dark, without electricity. The rural electrification project proposed by the government aims to change this by lighting up rural homes, schools and other institutions. "In Kenya, we see the sun 300 days out of 365 days in a year," said Michuki indicating that the sun is an accessible source of solar energy that is yet to be tapped to its full potential. He added that Kenya is doing so to ensure that the country achieves its vision 2030, a roadmap to creating a middle class economy in the next two decades.

The UNFCCC Secretary Christiana Figueres likened the climate change negotiation process to creating a business plan for the world. She indicated that while the negotiations may not be proceeding at the pace that the world wants, "it is like writing a global business plan for the planet with almost 200 governments being authors," said Figueres.

However, unlike the business plans created by private sector, this one would need to be implemented before the talks are over and final drafts completed. Figueres pushed for the immediate implementation of the plans being made to combat climate change. "It is only through implementing now that we are going to get to a final implementation of the business plan," she reiterated.

However, as we continue to implement the plans to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we have consider the need for the emerging and developing economies to grow and industrialise. India's minister for environment Jayanthi Natarajan indicated that while working to grow their economy, the developing nation has voluntarily committed to reducing emissions by 25% by 2025.

"This has been done at a cost to our economy and our people," said Natajaran. The minister emphasised the need for equity in the negotiations. "Equity is at the centre and has to be at the centre of all negotiations," she argued indicating that emerging and developing nations have "a right to grow and a right to develop."
World Bank's vice president of sustainable development Rachel Kyte indicated that climate change could stand in the way of the world's people's dreams. "The rights, expectations and hopes of people in every country are being actively undermined by climate change," said Kyte.

It is therefore important that we have an integrated approach to combating the effects of climate change. This includes developing sources of renewable energy while reducing the use of fossil fuels, working with private sector to facilitate technology sharing, not transfer, and building capacity of all peoples to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Accurate meteorological reports will aid in that, it will help the women farmers and the city girl to plan their days to reap the best out of it.

Florence Sipalla is a writer with the African Woman and Child Feature Service (AWCFS). This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service and AWCFS special series for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence and COP 17 Conference.

 

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