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Learning to live with a changing climate


People living around the Boni forest in Kenya have been adapting to a changing environment for years.

But this is different.

The magnitude and rate of change in the local climate is now so great, that many of the traditional coping strategies are ineffective or unsustainable. It’s leading to damage to the environment and food insecurity, forcing communities to look for new ways of maintaining their livelihoods.

Dwindling water sources for animals.Dwindling water sources for animals. Photo: John Bett / WWF

The Boni-Dodori forest is important in so many ways – it’s rich in a wide variety of wildlife, much of which is found nowhere else on earth; it provides local people with medicinal plants, wood fuel, building materials, water, food, and pasture for livestock; plays a huge role in the maintaining the health of other nearby ecosystems such the marine environments of Lamu; and it provides numerous ecosystem services like carbon fixing (forests have an important role in tackling climate change).

Our changing climate poses challenges not only for local people but also for wildlife and livestock. The most affected area is north of the Boni forest where the pastoralist (livestock farming) community resides.

Local and scientific observations show that the area’s climate is changing fast. We’re seeing droughts, increasing temperatures and more unpredictable rainfall – with shorter periods of rain that are more intense.

Shortages of water mean people travelling far distances to fetch water.Shortages of water mean people travelling far distances to fetch water. Photo: John Bett / WWF

Despite their determination, pastoralists are limited in their ability to adapt to these changing conditions. Conflicts over scarce resources such as water and pasture, limited access to information (such as on weather or disease outbreaks) and a lack of skills and access to financial services all make it harder to cope. It’s common in this region for people to migrate in search of water and better pastures, but now people are having to travel farther and for longer periods of time.

They’re also doing other things, for example using more drought-tolerant species of livestock, conserving water for dry periods, receiving food aid and finding alternative sources of income selling charcoal.

WWF is working to help these communities prepare for the future impacts of climate change, helping people move out of poverty and take their future into their own hands. We’ve explored a number of strategies including producing hay, improving water infrastructure, introducing savings and credit facilities and raising awareness of climate change issues.

Communities are now working to better protect and manage freshwater – a lifeline for their livestock and, by extension, themselves. Their efforts include deploying guards during the night to guard against over-extraction of water in these resources.

We’re also reducing threats to the forests by discouraging shifting cultivation which is causing massive deforestation and advocating conservation agriculture and alternative conservation-based livelihoods, for example the sustainable harvesting and sale of wild goods.

We wish to acknowledge and thank the financial support offered by Size of Wales and the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) through the Darwin Initiative and PPA.

What do you think about the impact of climate change? Is enough being done to tackleAre we doing enough to tackle it? Let us know in the comments below.

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