KIRUKU: Climate Change a Burden for the Poor, Women
This must have informed the recent move by the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat and the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Women Forum, who jointly organised the recently concluded dialogue on climate change and gender for members of the regional assembly.
The aim was to identify the role of parliamentarians in implementing gender sensitive climate change policies.
The fury of Mother Nature was recently experienced in Tanzania, where hailstorms in Kahama and floods in Dar es Salaam wreaked havoc, leaving in their wake death and destruction as well as displacement.
Rapid climate change has had a devastating impact on agricultural productivity, especially in Africa.
The erratic weather conditions have left rural populations exposed, worsening poverty levels and making it impossible to meet the targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals.
With many men in poor families leaving for towns in search of menial jobs, the women left behind to take care of the increasingly small pieces of land have been left badly exposed.
Their livelihoods and those of their children often hang by a thread as the unpredictable vagaries of changing weather patterns strike.
For instance, previously reliable rivers have been drying up, yet many rural areas still do not have piped water.
Harvests are no longer assured, and intensive farming practices have left many soils badly depleted of essential minerals and dependent on unaffordable fertilizers.
In East Africa, women face social, economic and political barriers that limit their ability to adapt to changing climatic conditions.
They are the ones charged with the responsibility of looking for water, food, and fuel for cooking.
As a result, they are the ones most directly affected by deteriorating weather conditions.
This, coupled with unequal access to resources and to decision making processes, has made rural women the victims of immense suffering.
Changing weather patterns have serious ramifications for food security, availability, accessibility and stability.
And since more than two-thirds of farm workers are women, they continue incurring enormous losses.
Yet, tending their farms is largely their only source of food and income.
Climate change has a significant impact on fresh water sources, affecting water availability for domestic, agricultural and industrial use.
Still, increased floods and drought across the region have left women highly vulnerable, especially because they are the ones charged with the responsibility of sourcing for and managing water at the household level.
POOR QUALITY WATER
Inadequate access to water and poor quality water affects women’s health as well as that of the whole family.
This has led to increased morbidity and mortality. In East Africa, floods, hailstorms and drought have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
Environmental hazards brought about by changing climatic conditions have further increased chances of contracting serious illnesses.
The risk of infectious diseases such as cholera and malaria in the region has increased significantly.
Developing gender sensitive climate change policies – which was one of the items on the agenda of the EAC Secretariat and EALA Women Forum dialogue – will greatly assist in bringing women on board in the struggle to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
Although the threat posed by climate change is global, East African citizens must also apply local remedies for dealing with the problem.
The five partner states should promote the use of environmentally friendly renewable energy sources such as biogas, wind and solar power.
Reducing the cost of materials used to construct biogas units will be a step in the right direction.
Still, one of the major hindrances in the war against deteriorating climate change in East Africa is over-dependence on donor support to finance climate change projects.
It is quite unacceptable that no money has been injected into the EAC Climate Change Fund established in 2011, meaning that the five partner states are fully dependent on development partners.
To boost the EAC Climate Fund kitty, individual partner states should make a seed contribution to the fund.
Just as well, the plan by the EAC Secretariat, in partnership with African Development Bank, to apply to become a regional implementing entity to the Climate Change Adaptation Fund and Green Climate Fund should be sped up.
By Anne Kiruku, East African News Agency