May we be like the African proverbial bird….

The rains we have been experiencing in the region in the past few days have come with some relief. One hopes they will continue with a bit more spread and intensity.

It, however, is not certain the volume of the rains will get any better.

In the coming week, according to a weather summary by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), below-average rainfall is expected in the region, and specifically in Kenya, northern Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda into late April.

Rwanda and Burundi appear not too badly off. On the map, they are safely tucked away from a clearly marked area of abnormal dryness that covers the other EAC countries.

According to FEWS NET, the season to date is among the top three driest on record in the region. The rains are therefore quite welcome.

Forecasters, however, note that the delay in the start of the March to June long rains, coupled with forecast deficits in April are building on already dry conditions that began with last year’s drought conditions during the October to December 2018 season.

This has, inevitably, caused many poor households to deplete their food stocks earlier than normal. And, as a consequence, more than 10 million people in Eastern African are at the risk of starving as food shortage bites.

Much stock is, therefore, being placed on the rains we are currently experiencing. The experts are explaining that the rains continuation from now through to next month will be critical to determining food security outcomes through late 2019.

With the foregoing, there is an understanding that it has something to do with climate change. The understanding is also that human beings have something to with it, particularly in our acceptance that Mother Nature is fighting back with the weather unpredictability and the misery that drought brings.

We are aware of our predicament, the reason for which it came as somewhat ironic for some that the theme for this year’s Earth Day should be “Protect our species”.

Though the theme refers to endangered species other than human, some cynics thought it could as appropriately apply to human beings given the way things are going.

The Day, observed last Sunday, on 22nd April, came at the right time as we are pondering the weather conditions.

It gave perspective with its reminder of our collective responsibility to keep the Earth healthy. It also presented an opportunity to reflect on what may be its legacy since its inauguration in 1970.

The National Geographic marked Earth Day’s 49th anniversary and drew out its legacy by showing how much has changed since 1970. The magazine assembled 49 of the most significant accomplishments of the environmental movement since the first Earth Day.

Placed at number 24 was the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that countries agreed to start working together to address climate change.

27 years on, the world is still grappling with how to address the issues. It turns out that the issue of climate change and how to address is as complex as it is multifaceted.

Global-warming research is hugely complex and reaches across scientific, political, economic, psychological, and other dimensions.

The dimensions have variously been articulated, of which it may serve to look at one of the easier facets on how “risks, judgments about risk, and adaptation needs are highly variable across different contexts.”

This facet notes how different regions, economic and resource sectors, and populations experience different impacts from climate change, and vary in their ability to tolerate and adapt to such impacts, and will hence differ in their judgments about the potential risks posed by climate change.

For instance, coastal communities that are vulnerable to serious disruptions could be expected to view the risks of climate change as quite serious.

Actions that are taken in response to climate change will also pose differing types of risks to different regions, sectors, and populations.

For instance, individuals and organizations that are heavily invested in carbon-intensive industries (i.e., coal) may prefer to face the risks of climate change impacts rather than face the potential costs of policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Decision makers will thus inevitably face some difficult choices and trade-offs in seeking to protect the interests of different constituencies.

Thus it is the solution to climate change remains in the distance, even as upended weather patterns continue to disorganise much of our life with uncertainty about the rains and the resultant persistent droughts.

We, however, can’t give up. May we be like the bird in the African proverb that prays for rain and finds itself soaked. Surely, we need the rains.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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