Friday, July 29, 2011

Food insecurity caused by climate change affects family planning in Kenya

Dorah Nesoba in Global Press Institute: It is early evening, and one of the fast food outlets in the South C Shopping Center in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is bustling with activity as hungry souls troop in one after the other. But Paul Mwangi, a taxi operator, says that no matter what he orders on the menu, he can’t spend less than 100 shillings, $1.10 USD, on a simple snack.

Mwangi says that food prices have risen dramatically because of environmental degradation and changes in the climate, which have led to weaker crop yields across Kenya. “I did not know that it would affect us this way,” he says. “I went home to Laikipia in March thinking I would be able to plant. The land was dry. I made two return visits in April. Still, there are no rains, and those who had planted have just watched their crops die under the scorching sun.”

Mwangi says that rising costs across society – combined with ailing crops, which his family depends on for food and his wife sells in order to supplement his earnings as a taxi driver – make it hard to support a large family...

....Health officials here say climate change has hurt crop yields, and, in turn, the health of pregnant women and their children, who need proper nutrition during crucial developmental years. Kenyans say that dwindling natural resources here can’t support the growing population, leading some to opt for smaller families. Nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, are promoting short-term and long-term solutions, such as planting drought-resistant crops and engaging in family planning. Meanwhile, the government aims to tackle climate change at local and national levels.

If certain changes are made, it is possible for Kenya to meet targets to ensure environmental sustainability, goal seven of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, a U.N. initiative agreed to by countries worldwide to achieve by 2015, according to the MDG Monitor. But it is off track to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, goal one.

Nearly half of Kenyans live in poverty, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, the rate of inflation in Kenya has soared from 3.5 percent between June 2009 and June 2010 to 14.5 percent between June 2010 and June 2011, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics....

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