It is now generally agreed that climate change poses one of the greatest challenges facing the world in the 21st century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) notes that climate change, if not tackled, will have a severe negative impact on global water supply, agricultural yields, marine ecosystems and the spread of vector-borne diseases, and could result in the displacement of thousands of people from coastal cities and small islands (Kenya climate change action plan).
Current climate change policies and actions in Kenya, and world-over, do not provide effective support for community engagement in decision making, nor sustainable livelihoods and environmental conservation. It is because of this that the Green Belt Movement (GBM) has a Climate Change Program that aims at strengthening the understanding and capacity of rural communities to take action against climate change. As well as raise awareness nationally on the role of local communities and forests in tackling climate change.
GBM has a long working relationship with likeminded stake holders including the Government of Kenya in climate change programs and REDD+ activities. Some of the REDD+ activities that the organization partners with the government are: carbon projects in Aberdare forest, Mt. Kenya forest and the Mau forest. The organization has also been contributing to the development of the National REDD+ process as a partner including the development of System for Land Emission Estimation for Kenya (SLEEK) at technical level.
In Kenya, the adverse impact of climate change is compounded by local environmental degradation caused by illegal encroachments, deforestation and livestock grazing. Forest cover, for instance, has fallen from 12 per cent in the 1960s to 2 per cent today.
The experiences in Africa and Kenya specifically, indicate that women especially those from marginalised arid and semi-arid area are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This is because; they are in charge of most of the domestic and livelihood activities. They are often responsible of their families and most of their time is spent looking for food and water which are often scarce in such regions.
The women are at the centre of climate change challenge; they have been disproportionately affected as victims. Women, especially in Africa and Kenya specifically deal with multiple stresses as an integral part of their daily lives. It is more difficult for grassroots women who find themselves managing families in very strenuous circumstances where traditional livelihoods are under threat and where men are often absent. There is therefore need for innovative strategies and practices to alleviate poverty and ensure survival in the face of climate change.