MUTAVATI, JANG: Ambitious adaptation is key to enhancing climate resilience


Our leaders need to interface inclusive climate adaptation solutions in the development agendas.

Anna Mutavati is the UN Women Kenya Country Representative while Dr Jang Hee Im is the Country Director,  Korea International Cooperation Agency, Kenya
Anna Mutavati is the UN Women Kenya Country Representative while Dr Jang Hee Im is the Country Director,  Korea International Cooperation Agency, Kenya

Communities in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands in Kenya are experiencing more frequent climate-related occurrences of droughts, floods, pests and diseases among others.

Out of 47 counties, 29 are classified as ASALs and have recently suffered massive crop failure following a prolonged drought.

This has disproportionately impacted the poorest and most marginalized communities in the country over the years.

In early 2020 amid a recurring drought, Kenya suffered expansive attacks from desert locusts that destroyed farmlands in the ASAL areas, leaving the already vulnerable region with devastating hunger.

Furthermore, food productivity remains relatively low in all the regions due to poor incentives, and underdeveloped supporting infrastructure and institutions.

Climate change has reduced the chances of escaping poverty or achieving SDGs 1 and 2 on ending poverty and hunger and increased the risk for agriculture sector investors.

The majority of Kenyans are smallholder farmers and are at the highest risk of climate change impacts.

This cumulatively has multiplied the risks and challenges including food insecurity and social inequalities, women have to contend with, eroding their capacity to be resilient and even the small capacity they have is at risk from the high frequency of climate change impacts.

Climate change impacts have severely eroded the capacity of families to bounce back from the crises, creating new vulnerabilities and worsening the living conditions within ASALs communities.

Data collected over the years indicate that women are the first victims of adverse impacts of climate change by their roles in caring for the family and the responsibilities of collecting fodder, firewood and water.

The worse the situation, the more time women spend e.g. over 8 hours collecting firewood, and or in search of water.

Leaving them vulnerable to increased widespread diseases, loss of educational opportunities and exposure to gender-based violence.

The magnitude of the human costs of such events can be reduced when communities are empowered to be climate change resilient.

There are efforts by different players to bring change to the dire situation of communities but more needs to be done.

The Economic Empowerment of Women through Climate Smart Agriculture supported by UN Women and FAO funded by the Korean International Cooperation Agency has transformed the economic livelihoods of 1920 women and 480 men in Laikipia, Kitui and West Pokot Counties of Kenya.

Establishing spaces for collaborative cultivation that apply over 22 climate-smart practices has increased their adaptive capacity and ability to respond more effectively to the challenges posed by climate change.

The community-driven discussions initiated by the project activities have changed their perspectives and ideologies with the farmers learning to make better choices.

This has also harnessed the communities’ entrepreneurial spirit.

The last four years of the project implementation have increased and multiplied the impacts of investments in women’s capacities to ensure more equitable access to assets and productive resources that would strengthen their rights to adapt to the increasing climate variabilities.

Urgency for adaptation

Adaptation is urgent amidst growing climate impacts. As climate impacts such as water crises, floods, or droughts increase the cost of living and food prices will continue to soar not just in Kenya but globally.

The main focus in building resilient communities is on harnessing nature-based solutions, supporting good resource management, improving access to safe, reliable and sustainable energy and fuel, and above all, working to empower the beneficiaries with skills they can apply over a long time to make an income.

A call for strong preparedness and adaptation efforts is required given the irreversible losses and damage that Kenya and the continent face.

Greater transparency and consistency in the reporting of gender equality markers by climate finance providers must increase adaptation funding that is responsive to gender and social inclusion to support more equitable and effective adaptation.

Everybody wins

One of the most efficient ways to address the rising cost of living and global food insecurity is by adapting food systems and working in collaboration with political and community leaders to push for long-term sustainable initiatives.

The Economic Empowerment of Women through Climate Smart Agriculture programme has for example supported the capacity building of key county officials in Kenya in the adoption and implementation of gender-responsive climate-resilient agriculture approaches.

From this, farmers particularly women, have accessed valuable technical information, training, market access and value chain development among other various aspects of agriculture.

In Kenya, Agriculture contributes 22 per cent of the GDP and 40 per cent of agriculture sector employment [1] with women playing key roles in production, management and decision-making around food security, and nutrition hence the welfare of children, families, and the whole community.

Rural women, who manage over 40 per cent of Kenya’s rain-fed farms and provide 80 per cent of the labour for crop production, have been hard hit by climate change reliance on agriculture.

This underscores the need for sustainable, resilient promotion and investment in women’s economic empowerment which sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees or by doing unpaid care work at home.

It is at this critical moment of COP28 when global leaders have the opportunity to prioritise support for national adaptation plans and to fulfil commitments to double adaptation funding.

Our leaders across all sectors, for the sake of the communities and particularly women and children, need to interface inclusive climate adaptation solutions in the development agendas.

Anna Mutavati is the UN Women Kenya Country Representative while Dr Jang Hee Im is the Country Director,  Korea International Cooperation Agency, Kenya