An Uncertain Harvest

Increasingly volatile weather patterns around the world are already causing supermarket prices to rise. But when it comes to global warming and the food supply, the real losers will be those in developing countries. A look at how one corner of Africa is coping.

By Jocelyn Craugh Zuckerman

Back in the early 1990s, when I lived in the country as a Peace Corps volunteer, I made three trips up to Kenya’s hot, dry Lake Turkana region, where, save for the occasional Giacometti-esque figure moving across the shimmering horizon, a visitor in search of solitude could drive for hours and encounter nothing but barren beauty. I have every intention of heading back on this trip, but am told repeatedly that I’d be crazy to go anywhere near the place. In recent years, the 250,000 or so Turkana who inhabit the area—majestic nomads who have long since made their peace with its harsh climate—have faced hardships like none they’ve previously known. The dry spell of 2004, which the local people refer to as Atiaktiak ng’awiyei, or “the one that divided homes,” because so many families were forced to split up to survive it, was the latest in a series of rain-free periods the Turkana have experienced since 1999, when the drought they dubbed Kichutanak (“it has swept away everything, even animals”) hit the region.

Today, as water sources continue to deteriorate (Lake Turkana enjoys only half the inflow it once did) and healthy pasture becomes increasingly hard to find, the strains that have always existed between the Turkana and the neighboring Pokot tribe are intensifying. This past December, The New York Times reported that more than a dozen people had been killed and thousands of goats, camels, donkeys, and cows stolen when hundreds of armed warriors from the West Pokot district stormed into the Turkana village of Lorengipi. Though such attacks are nothing new, rarely have they been carried out on such an exaggerated scale. More disturbingly, whereas in the past the marauders arrived wielding traditional spears, today’s raiders brandish the AK-47s that are available so cheaply and readily across the border in Somalia.

Instead I head back east, stopping in the town of Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria, where Francis Otieno Faraji, helping me into his creaky fishing boat, has his own stories to tell of an ecosystem in distress. “You see those mango trees?” he asks, pointing to a dense grove 150 feet off in the distance. “Three years ago, the lake reached all the way up to them.”

Today, thanks to the receding waters, fishermen like 19-year-old Eric Okoth Odok and 17-year-old Vincent Oduor, whom we encounter a half mile or so out on the lake, are forced to head farther and farther from the shore in pursuit of their catch—often ending up in Ugandan territory and getting themselves arrested in the process. “These Kenyan waters are just a nursery,” for the Nile perch that make up the lion’s share of the fishermen’s catch, explains Faraji. Indeed, the few specimens that Odok and Oduor do pull in are no bigger than six or seven inches long.

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There are of course alternative views to the one you have propounded above.
One of these is that of a specifically Christian/Biblical world view - you are therefore welcome to read (via Word document, or as a published booklet)
"Global Warming & Climate Change - A Christian Perspective"
Do contact me on e mail address above for details.

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