Climate Change Adaptation and Health by the Indegenous community from Lake Bogoria, Kenya: An Interview with Raphael Kimosop

Melvine Anyango Otieno & Raphael Kimosop

Raphael Kimosop is an Indegenous person from Endorois Community, and a member of Endorois Welfare Council. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Planning and Management and Diploma in Environmental Management. He formerly served as a research assistant in Lake Bogoria and an Education Officer. Currently he works for the county Government of Baringo as the county Catchment and Wetland Protection Officer. He is a member of Planetary Health Eastern Africa Hub (PHEAH).

Introduction

Lake Bogoria is the deepest alkaline Rift Valley Lake in Kenya found in Baringo County, with numerous alkaline hot springs that contribute significant inflows into the lake. The lake is an important stopover point for the northern avian migrants and hosts the largest population of lesser flamingos in the world. The area has high revenue potential in terms of tourism, socio-economic and cultural activities. Lake Bogoria National Reserve was declared a National Reserve due to its rich biodiversity, scenery and hydrological features in 1970 and was made a Ramsar site of international importance in 2001 and a World Heritage Site (WHS) in 2010.

Fig 1: Lake Bogoria, in Baringo County, Kenya hosting lessers flamingos

The Reserve comprises the lake and the terrestrial portion with various vegetation types depending on soil types and terrain. Amongst these vegetation types are grasslands, thickets and woodlands (which form an important habitat for the endangered and an Endemic Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsciseros) and other mammals). It used to be an important communal dry season grazing area for the local communities, and has important sacred and cultural sites and shrines.

Fig 2: Vegetation type (thickets, grassland & woodland) in Lake Bogoria during dry season

Since 2010, there has been an increase in water levels in most of the Rift Valley Lakes. This has been evidenced by formerly seasonal rivers having continuous water flowing unlike before when the flows in the rivers used to be intermittent. For instance, River Waseges has been permanently flowing to Lake Bogoria throughout the year since 2011. The river had been disappearing after entering the park therefore not reaching the lake on the surface. In the recent past, most rivers feeding the rift valley lakes have been flowing permanently. These rivers include the rivers Malewa, Gilgil, Makalia, Nderit, Kerio, Waseges, Molo, Perkerra, Turkwel ol arable, loboi etc.

From available literature, these changes are not due to improved water catchments but more significantly due to weather dynamics. More rains are being experienced due to climatic changes. For example, this is in conformity with the IPCC, which has advised that the East African region will be wetter than usual due to climate change . This is due to the occurrence of the Indian Ocean Dipole in Kenya. It has been raining continuously from March 2019 to date.

Similarly, the northern parts of Lake Bogoria (which is contained in a depression) show areas of increased water levels’ “swallowing” the land after 2010. Currently, Lake Bogoria National Reserve circuit access road has been submerged, forcing the management to start the construction of the fifth road with two gates previous positions already under water. Indeed, major cultural sites have been submerged; the hot springs and geysers which were the major tourist attractions are all under water, including the Herbal medicinal plants. The total decrease of land cover due to submergence of the area around lake Bogoria is 88 square kilometers. This has displaced the snakes and other wild animals occupying the submerged ecological zone. Inundation of public health facilities and private property including 116 households has caused a displacement of about 700 people.

Fig 3: Tourist hotel facility submerged due to flooding situation at Lake Bogoria, in Baringo County Kenya

Interview questions

Through an interview with Mr. Raphael Kimosop, the following questions were addressed to show how the indigenous communities of Lake Bogoria have shown autonomous adaptive measures to severe flooding resulting from climate change:

Fig 4: Academia expert(lecturer), Student community (Moi University &University of Eldoret), indegenous communities and Policy maker (Raphael Kimosop, on right) at Lake Bogoria, in Baringo County Kenya.

Are local communities in Eastern Africa willing/open to change resulting from climate change?

“Indeed the community is more than willing to make changes in their lives and livelihood. They have lost their important natural resources such as arable land. In fact they have already done some interventions in the journey towards adapting and copying to climate change effects.”

How is the Lake Bogoria environment changing?

“There are many indicators that have shown the impacts of climate change on the environment (land Bogoria/Baringo landscape). Floods are evident, as is the disappearance/extinction of some indegenious wildlife species including both flora and fauna. The region has also experienced the emergence of invasive tree species like Prosopis juliflora and Dodonaea angustifolia.”

How is the impact felt by the community (e.g., health impacts and social-economic impacts)?

Health impacts

-Emergence of one of the listed World Health Organization neglected tropical disease called “Kala-azar” (Visceral leishmaniasis) which is a protozoan disease caused by parasites found in the female sandfly. Some of its symptoms include; weight loss, spleen enlargement and cases of anemia.

-Increased cases of vector-borne diseases such as malaria epidemics since the area has becoming breeding sites for mosquitoes

-Water-borne and hygiene related diseases such as schistosoma mansoni, typhoid and cholera as the lake water is highly polluted resulting in scarcity of clean water hence consumption of untreated water. Women had to acquire clean water at far areas of approximately 20km in Marigat village.

-Emergence of zoonotic diseases such as foot and mouth diseases in humans, and increased death rate of both the domestic animals (poultry) and the wild animals (flamingos)

Fig 5: Population of lesser flamingos found at Lake Bogoria, Baringo County, Kenya

Socio-economic impacts

The rise in water levels in Lake Bogoria has significantly impacted the socio-economic effects on the wildlife, vegetation and indigenous communities living in this region. There has been devastation of livelihoods, arable land and facilities such as roads, schools, health centers, hotels, and fish handling facilities at fish landing sites. The submerging of tourism attraction sites and many hospitality facilities has highly affected the tourism economy due to the dest

Indegenous community of L.Bogoria have their own prestige culture but their cultural way of living have been tampered and compromised.

Designated holy areas for prayers and ancestral appeasement, the shrines (fig tree), have submerged in water. Initiation ceremonies, specific trees along the riparian areas of L.Baringo and Bogoria, have submerged. Depletion of medicinal resources; herbal medicine, herbal clinic from natural trees, acacia peniferus, etc also submerged. On the other hand, the spread of invasive aquatic weeds have escalated into previously unaffected wetlands.

Awareness: Are the environmental changes attributed to climate change / the planetary crisis?

“Yes, environmental changes are attributed to climate change and also a planetary crisis. Having worked with the government, awareness creation is very difficult to access the Indegenous community and confine/converge them in one place to discuss solution strategies since the community members are pastoralists, they are always in movement in search for pasture and water.’’

Are the communities attributing negative health impacts to the climate crisis?

“The community may not know they are talking about climate change, as they take climate change issues as a curse from the gods or punishment from ancestors for their wrong doing. They believe the majority of the ailments are, because of climate, they mention the prevalence of tropical diseases and the sudden death of lesser flamingos in lake bogoria with respect to climate change.”

Innovation: How do community members come up with adaptive strategies (both short term and long term)?

Short term adaptation measures

-Construction of temporary shelter (tented camps) for displaced communities.

-Awareness creation and educating the community on preventing measures on health by the community health workers: for instance, the community came up with Malaria prevention mechanism to kill mosquitos (such as goat dung & shrub burning) and also tsetse fly control measures to prevent trypanosomiasis.

-Establishing tree nurseries to secure endangered medicinal plants.

-Formulation of climate change policy.

-Women shifting to other sources of income such as value added items (selling liquid and soap detergents), joining table banking to support new businesses.

-Practicing new and cheaper irrigation scheme such as drip irrigation for agricultural production

-Search for safe water for consumption in other areas to avoid the spread of water-borne diseases.

Long term adaptation measures

- Change of dietary intake, shift to resilient food production such as cassava, sweet potatoes, fruits (pawpaws & mangoes)

- The community is also slowly shifting from keeping large herds of indigenous cattle to high breed livestock for production of milk.

-Purchasing water tanks for rainwater storage, instead of using the polluted river and lake water to avoid diseases as a strategy of preventing water borne diseases
-Pasture establishment to supplement the natural pasture for Livestock (reduced number of herd of cattles)

-Change of house design, from madhouse to iron sheet roofed houses

-Supported evacuation to higher and safer grounds

-Medicine supply at local dispensaries

-Rebuilding of infrastructures in safer grounds (bridges, schools, hospitals)

-Research focusing on flooding and future preventive measures supported by also higher education institutions

-Mass tree plantation

-Gazettement and implementation of climate change policy framework

-Farmers securing food by constructing huge cereal storage facilities for storing food for future use

-Training and capacity building on GIS and Remote sensing by international bodies

What kind of change do they want to achieve?

There is urgency within the Indegenous community to ensure change happens due the climate change including:

1. Improved livelihoods,

2. Reduced and preventive measures of: zoonotic diseases, communicable diseases, vector borne diseases, respiratory diseases and water-borne diseases.

3. Improved Nutrition and diet.

4. Awareness creation (200 cattle and 50 have died, no economic value)
5. Educating the community on the best practices in mitigation and adaptive

6. Research: engaging the community in community based research activities to know the cause of climate change

7. Renewable energy (green energy)- use of fuel such as firewood & charcoal, emitting smoke resulting to air pollution which leads to respiratory diseases (asthma, lung infection, esophageal cancer)
8. Embracing their culture and communicating the impacts of climate change through creative arts

Acceptability of adaptive strategies: How are the adaptation measures perceived by the community?

“The community is ready for change. Indeed the community in their small ways have been putting in place some interventions. awareness creation and education due to an increased knowledge gap is required and they are ready to be guided through. Change in the dietary preferences, shifted to processed foods as a result of food insecurity hence becoming vegetarians.
- Women are now engaging themselves in family planning practices since there is not enough land to accommodate big population due to flooding, and children being the most vulnerable during this crisis, so family planning is highly encouraged to prevent having a big family like in the ancient days as the environment is accomodative.
- Practice artificial insemination of livestock to reduce the herds of cattle and avoid further destruction of natural resources, venturing into productive livestock to boost the economy.
-Value additional activities such as beekeeping practices (bottling, waxing).
-Mixed farming is also embraced.”

Are there any barriers/enablers when it comes to implementation?

“The community has some communal structured systems/organization. This will be an avenue for implementation of the climate change adaptive measures. Several barriers that prevent community implementation include:
-Cultural attachment: some community members are adamant to their culture and they hold it tightly, they prefer even to die rather than shifting to some new adaptive measures for example; some prefer to own over 200 herds of indigenous livestock than shifting to few high breed livestock, as owning many cattle was considered a source of wealth.
-Some community members are still adamant about using herbal medicine; they don’t want to switch to modern medicine despite illnesses.
- Belief in consumption of river water: however polluted the water is, many disregard the treated water and also lack finances to buy fresh water from afar.”

Conclusion

Sub-Saharan Africa’s contribution to the threat of climate change is negligible, but it is one of the biggest victims of the adverse repercussions. Under ongoing climatic conditions, Africa is dominated by tropical weather systems, resulting in an extremely variable climate. This increased climate variability, combined with Africa’s high reliance on agricultural production and direct utilization of natural resources, raises the prospect of shocking negative effects from global climate change. Hotter temperatures have the ability to boost the spread of vector-borne diseases like malaria, as well as hygiene-related illnesses like cholera. While the Eastern Africa region has made significant progress in its commitments in response to the climate crisis, particularly among local and indigenous communities, the link between commitments and implementation remains a critical gap. Sector-level policies are needed to meet the commitments. Insufficient technical capacity exists to develop multi-sectoral transformative policy frameworks. The region continues to face multiple threats as a result of climatic impacts, and the community, policymakers, and government figures are all ready to address the climate crisis. As a result, there is an opportunity to enact policies and laws that increase local communities’ adaptive capacity, promote sustainable development, and implement a long-term climate strategy.

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