Climate Witness: Nelly Damaris Chepkoskei, Kenya
“As a result, more pesticides are being used”
My name is Nelly Damaris Chepkoskei. I am 50 years old. I am a farmer and live in a village called Kipchebor, in the Kericho District in the West of Kenya. I am married and I have five children. I grow maize, tea and keep a few dairy cattle on my farm.
I also harvest indigenous tree seedlings on a .75 acre plot. Some of these seedlings are sold and some are given to local institutions like schools. In addition, I am a volunteer Community Mobilizer working with the Forest Action Network. My work entails educating the local population on the importance of conserving our forest. I mainly work with women, who I believe have been left behind as far as conservation is concerned.
By working with the women in my community I have heard many stories about changes in our local environment in the past 20-30 years. Many of these changes I have also witnessed myself. This includes uncontrolled clearing of the bushes and trees on virgin forest land to create more land for farming and settlement.
The grass dries up
What is disturbing us most are changes to the weather. For example, rainfall patterns have changed drastically in the last decades. Here in the Kericho District we used to have rainfall throughout the year. I remember clearly that my family celebrated Christmas when it was raining heavily, but this has changed. Today, Christmas is usually dry.
Temperatures have increased in the last decades, even during the rainy seasons — a strange scenario in Kericho District indeed. Unlike 20 years ago, the dry season at present is hotter to the extent that all the grass dries up. This was not the case before, when grass would remain green even during the dry season. This means that there isn’t enough fodder for my cows, leading to a drop in milk production and also income. The soils are also left bare during the dry season leading to erosion at the onset of the rains.
Edible insects we depended on have gone extinct
Kericho is a high altitude area and the cold weather used to ensure that mosquitoes could not survive here. However, one of the effects of the higher temperatures is the increased number of mosquitoes resulting in increased incidence of malaria in this district. This started in the 1980s. Now, people are even dying from malaria, something that was virtually unheard of 20-30 years ago.
Some of the edible insects that the people in my area depended on during scarcity of foods have also gone extinct. This means that my community has become more dependent on what we grow, and more vulnerable to decreasing rainfall and failing crops.
I have also noticed that, with the warmer weather, there are more pests affecting our crops. As a result, more pesticides are being used. The additional cost of pesticides means our farming business becomes less profitable. Moreover, these pesticides also pollute our environment.
All these changes in our local environment and climate have led to a situation in which food scarcity and poverty has become the order of each year. The situation needs urgent attention.
The observations Damaris has witnessed in Kericho District as well as the stories she has gathered so far for the same district are testimony of what is happening on the ground with regard to climate change impacts. These observations are indeed consistent with peer-reviewed literature describing climate related impacts already being experienced in the districts of western Kenya including Kericho. Rising temperatures and unreliability (onset and withdrawal dates as well as distribution in space and time) of rainfall in these districts have negatively affected a number of socio-economic sectors in particular health (insurgence of highland malaria) and agriculture (declining crop yields).
Current science predicts opening up of more territorial boundaries for the malaria vectors owing to favorable temperatures and a reduction in agricultural production as a result of persistent droughts and resurgence of plant/animal pests and diseases- all attributed to global warming.
Based on all these facts, my conclusion is that the observations by Damaris confirm the expectation and realities of science that climate change is indeed already taking its toll in the vulnerable communities of Kenya.