From MISNAJan. 30, 2009
“The day-to-day impacts of climate change, such as higher temperatures and
erratic rainfall, are increasing many people’s vulnerability to hazards.
Prolonged droughts exert the greatest pressure on households to move,
particularly from rural to urban areas.
In the Horn of Africa alone, there are more than 20 million pastoralists currently living a lifestyle that is centered on the search for increasingly scarce pasture and water”, said Charles Ehrhart, the poverty, environment and climate change network coordinator for CARE International.
Ehrhart intervened at a two-day meeting organized by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the African Union (AU) in Nairobi (Kenya) aimed at developing a continent-wide policy framework to secure and protect the lives, livelihoods and rights of pastoralists in Africa, as also on the availability of water in the Horn of Africa and in eastern and central Africa.
It is however not only the fault of climate change. Leilan ole Saruni, a Maasai, said that when he was young he could go from Kitengela to Oseki – a distance of around 20km – stopping to greet all the families he encountered. They were five families. The area today is inhabited by over 300,000 people. But the water sources are the same.
The demographic pressure can be felt also in the desert regions. It is enough to think that, based on UN estimates, in 1950 Kenya’s population was 6,416,000, while today the population is 34-million. While the populations of the highlands generally have access to good water sources, inhabitants of the large northern prairies face droughts and erratic rainfall. When the population was at a lower density, a nomad lifestyle allowed the use of resources – water and forage – without incising on the environment.
The main problem for pastoralists is mobility, given to the growing areas fenced by private owners. The herds are therefore forced into limited areas for long periods, with an excessive consumption of the natural resources. Representatives of pastoral communities of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda present at the meeting, called for interventions to improve territorial administration, reduce the marginalization of their communities and step up education.
"There is a need to get a clear picture of the humanitarian need that climate change is generating and will generate in pastoral regions of Africa”, said Besida Tonwe, the head of OCHA’s central and eastern Africa’s regional office.