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World Bank Warns of Greater Decline Food Production in Kenya

Published on Tuesday 15th September 2009

Kenya is among countries that will be hardest hit by even more severe food shortages in coming years due to a warming climate.

Some parts of the country have already lost 90 per cent of their water.

Although almost every part of the country had lost substantial amounts of water, the hardest hit areas are Eastern and North Eastern provinces.

Sections of Central Province have lost 80 per cent of their water, while in the western region, 30 per cent of water sources have dried up.

These damning disclosures emerged yesterday during the launch of the annual World Development Report at the United Nations Environmental Programme's Nairobi offices.

The World Bank report, whose theme this year is "Development and Climate Change", was launched simultaneously in Nairobi and Washington and painted a gloomy picture of Earth's future.

The disasters associated with a warming climate, such as droughts, floods and landslides, are already seeing governments diverting funds meant for health and education, says the report, whose Kenyan launch was presided over by Environment minister John Michuki.

Such diversion could involve buying relief food or buying weak animals from desperate herdsmen as is happening in most arid areas in Kenya.

Also under threat are the country's efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the Vision 2030.

Indicating that the government had thought about these challenges, Mr Michuki said the Vision 2030 document was being revised to factor in the anticipated effects of climate change.

"Our plan at the ministry is to spend over Sh80 billion for the next 20 years in tree planting, with the priority going to restoring major water catchment areas," said the Environment minister.

Even if mitigating factors are put in place today, said the World Bank, the environment would still need many more years to recover.

The study predicts that whole parts of the continent will become unsuitable for wheat farming because of droughts, pests and diseases.

This year, wheat-growing areas of the Rift Valley are facing their lowest production levels ever, with some farmers losing whole crops to drought and pests.

At best, scientists predict that if warming could be retained at two degrees centigrade, weather patterns would change completely, disorienting farmers from their traditional farming instincts.

The report warns people living in coastal areas that water levels could rise by one metre this century, casting doubt on the value of seafront properties.

People living inland, especially around Lake Victoria, require special attention because the speed at which forests are being destroyed could see the lake lose 50 per cent of its species within decades.

Though the report, built on three themes dominating the climate change debate - inertia, equity and ingenuity - paints a dark future, it is optimistic that the situation can be arrested.

It suggests that if people were to give up the use of environment-polluting SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) for environment-friendly saloon cars, it could greatly cut on greenhouse gases in the environment.

But environmentalist Wangari Maathai went further and called for the banning of importation of second hand-cars.

Another suggestion was for the governments to innovatively levy a green tax on foods whose production contributes to greenhouse gases, such as meat.

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