Climate Witness: Joseph Kones, Kenya

“When I was young, we never knew anything about malaria”

My name is Joseph Kones. I was born 57 years ago in Kabaruso Village, Bomet District. I have lived in this area since I was born. My wife and I have 8 children.

My village has a population of about 10,000 people. Maize (corn) and tea are the main cash crops that we grow. Our tea is bought by a local tea processing factory. Other crops we grow are beans, peas and Irish potatoes and tomatoes that we sell at the local market. We keep dairy cows and goats that provide us with milk.

Unpredictable rainfall and severe drought

When I was young, we used to have regular rains especially in April and November, but now it rains any time of the year. Planning for planting for me as a farmer has become very difficult. There must be something wrong somewhere. These changes started about 20 years ago. This year, the rains were late and when they came, they were very heavy so that most areas were waterlogged.

Food production in the area has gone down because people are not sure when to plant and even when they plant, they may not get rains at the right time. Farming in our area is not only for our food, we depend on agriculture for income too. However, this low agricultural production is affecting our livelihood. Some people have even had to resort to food donations from the government, something that has not happened since I was born. About 2 years ago, we experienced a drought and even the nearby river dried up. This was the first time in my life that I saw this river dry!

In 2006, we experienced very heavy rains in the drier months (July to October). All the rivers were flooded, and there was heavy destruction of our crops.

Warmer weather brings mosquitoes, which bring malaria

When I was young, we never knew anything about malaria. It was very rare for us to hear that anybody had contracted malaria. We do not know how malaria developed around here. I think it must be warmer now for the mosquitoes that spread malaria to survive in our area. We used to hear that malaria was around the Lake [Victoria] region where the climate is hotter than in our area.

Adapting to Climate Change

I have become a member of the board in the Mara River Water Organisation which aims to save the Mara River from drying out due to changes in climate. We also seek to help farmers to regain fertile and moist soil. My farm is being used as a pilot project and model for other farmers in the region. On my farm we plants trees and build terraces to store water as long as possible. I see these skills in adapting to climate change as essential for the future survival of our community.