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

 Anyone who’s seen the 2004 film Darwin’s Nightmare knows that the problems surrounding Lake Victoria are by no means limited to climate change. (Invasive species, overfishing, pollution, and AIDS all have their place.) But rising temperatures aren’t doing anything to help matters. The level of the lake—which is the main feed for the Nile River as well as a vital source of food, water, transportation, and electric power for some 30 million people—has dropped six feet in the past three years alone. A December 2006 report by the U.S.-based Water Resources and Energy Management International concluded that higher temperatures could cause the evaporation of up to half of Victoria’s inflow from rain and rivers, threatening both the immediate community and more than 100 million Egyptians, Sudanese, and others living on the Nile. “People talk about the snows of Kilimanjaro,” says Aris P. Georgakakos, the chief author of the report. “We have something much bigger to worry about, and that’s Lake Victoria.”

The truth is that every one of Africa’s major lakes is today in a state of crisis. Lake Chad, once the world’s sixth largest, has shrunk to an unimaginable 2 percent of its 1960s size, and the level of central Africa’s Lake Tanganyika dropped five feet from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, according to a 2003 article in Nature. Its sardine harvest, a major source of dietary protein for the local community, has contracted by half since the 1970s.

 I n the face of rising temperatures and increasingly dramatic (and destructive) weather patterns, many local communities have begun taking matters into their own hands. Pulling into the Maasai village of Kisamese, in the drought-stricken Kajiado District about 20 miles south of Nairobi, I hook up with Jane Minisa, a perky 34-year-old mother of four, who proudly leads me across a rocky path to the 1,000-liter water tank that dominates her neighbors’ backyard. Backed by UNEP and implemented by a local non-governmental organization, the water-harvesting project that resulted in the tank, which Minisa built with the help of her co-members in the Tubula Women’s Group, represents a much bigger vision. In order to receive instruction and funding for it, the women were required to carry out other tasks—digging holes for new trees, preparing a vegetable garden, and fashioning a dam for rainwater harvesting—aimed at sustaining their community.

And they’re not the only ones. At the Nairobi conference, Agnes Mosoni Loirket, the woman responsible for spearheading the initiative, told the delegates that in the past two years alone, women’s groups in the region have constructed more than 80 of the tanks. “Before the project,” she explained, “women used to leave early and sleep close to the river, leaving children going to school unattended.”

Minisa herself knew that story all too well. But these days she has the time to craft beaded jewelry and run a small shop, earning enough extra cash between the two to send all four of her children to school. She also takes solace in the knowledge that, whatever shocks may result from climatic changes (which she attributes to “the lack of trees and the use of factories”), she and her family have a steady supply of drinking water and an acre and a half planted with beans, maize, and other crops.

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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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