Geothermal Energy in KenyaThe use of geothermal energy, or heat contained in rocks and fluids beneath the Earth’s surface, is expanding around the globe. Geothermal energy can generate a continuous supply of heat to power homes and office buildings. It can produce just one-sixth of the CO2 emissions produced in a natural gas plant. Today, geothermal energy in Kenya has emerged as a sustainable power source and contributed to poverty-reduction throughout East Africa.

The Prime Location

To access geothermal energy, production teams dig wells deep into reservoirs of steam and hot water. The method of access limits geothermal energy plants to locations along tectonic plates. For this reason, some have called geothermal energy “the most location-specific energy source” in the world. With an estimated geothermal potential of 10,000 megawatts, the Great Rift Valley in Kenya holds exceptional promise for clean-energy development. The Rift spans nearly 4,000 miles, extending north into Lebanon and south into Mozambique. Situated in the middle of the fault line, Kenya is in a position to harness vast stores of underground energy.

The first geothermal site opened here in 1984, in the region of Olkaria (about 150 miles from the nation’s capital, Nairobi). At the moment, Kenya is working to expand its 23 sites, only four of which contain deep wells. While geothermal power plants in Olkaria maintain a generation capacity of around 700 megawatts and can power nearby major cities, geologists hope to double their impact by 2025.

On Track to a Sustainable Future

Geothermal energy in Kenya remains vital to ensuring a sustainable future nationwide. Unlike natural gas or even solar power, geothermal energy is safe from climatic hazards. In addition, it is available year-round and is relatively low-cost after drilling. Accounting for half the power in Kenya on some days, it has alleviated the national energy shortage. Moreover, it helps provide 75% of Kenyans with access to electricity. This is a significant increase from 56% in 2016.

Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) recognizes the need to implement geothermal energy in sustainability efforts. According to Cyrus Karingithi, Head of Resource Development at KenGen, “We are too dependent on hydropower and this poses a real problem with the repetition of droughts.” Two-thirds of the power in Kenya came from dams in 2010. With the rise of geothermal energy, innovative companies like KenGen have reduced that number to less than 50% and are aiming for 28% by 2024. To achieve their goal, geologists will continue to identify new drilling areas along the fault line.

Economic Growth

Harvesting geothermal energy in Kenya provides environmental solutions, and it also stimulates economic growth. As geothermal plants create jobs and power Kenyan businesses, these operations can wield a direct influence on the fight against poverty. For instance, Oserian is one of the leading flower exporters in Kenya. Oserian relies on geothermal energy to heat greenhouses and sell 380 million flower stems each year. In addition, the company can grow new rose varieties with a 24-hour heating supply. The same geothermal plant generates power for 300,000 other small or medium-sized businesses in the area. With a fast-growing economy, Kenya is already moving toward industrialization and modernization. The nation hopes to be an upper-middle-income country within the next decade. Officials remain optimistic that geothermal energy can power burgeoning industries throughout the country.

Leading the Way

Kenya is the leading producer of geothermal energy on the African continent and eighth in the world. The nation has helped set a valuable precedent for building green infrastructure and implementing sustainable poverty-reduction efforts. Additionally, Kenya will soon be in a position to offer other countries its geothermal equipment and expertise. KenGen intends to construct some of the first geothermal plants in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia. Furthermore, the company has scheduled geoscientific investigations in Rwanda and the Comoros Islands. KenGen has partnered with the Kenyan government, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme to garner support for resource development.

Now more than ever, geothermal energy in Kenya is a promising alternative power source. Though not without its challenges, energy drawn from inside the earth promotes numerous financial and environmental advancements. In the end, geothermal energy can help Kenyans propel themselves and their neighbors down a sustainable path to economic stability.

Katie Painter

Photo: Flickr

Clean Water Initiative in KenyaKenya, among many other areas, needs clean water. Clean water is not only a necessity for adults in Kenya but especially for children. Children need clean water for sanitation and hygiene. The number one cause of death of children age five or younger is from diseases related to water, hygiene and sanitation issues. Schools in Kenya, all suffer from not having complete access to water, hygiene and sanitation. This causes educational setbacks for children and it stunts their development and potential.

The goal is to achieve complete access to water for everyone in Kenya by 2030. However, there are some issues preventing the completion of this goal. One major barrier is the population growth that is continuing in Kenya. People who drink from contaminated water in Kenya ranks as the third in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa has an estimated 9.4 million people who consume contaminated water sources. Additionally, they are about 5 million people who practice open defecation in Kenya. Also in Kenya, only 14% have access to soap and water in their homes to wash their hands.

The Water Project

The Water Project is a nonprofit organization that is committed to enabling the access of clean water throughout Africa. The organization working to help communities with the clean water initiative in Kenya. According to the Water Project, access to clean water means an improvement in education, health, poverty and hunger.

Hunger can be improved by access to clean water because it is the foundation to have sustainable food sources. A lot of water is required to ensure that food will grow. So, improving water sources can change an entire community and country. At the root of poverty in Africa is water sources. The lack of clean water sources is one of the main causes of poverty. However, this is a problem that can be solved.

The Water Project and Community Engagement

The Water Project has a process that it follows for all its commitments. The organization focuses on community engagement, community education, installing the project, education follows up, monitoring and evaluation. With the help of the community, the organization can decide where it is going to work. Resources, the potential for positive outcomes and demand are a few of the main factors in its decision.

Community education is an opportunity for communities to learn about clean water resources, hygiene and sanitation. In addition, the community learn other key aspects of cooking and preparing meals using clean water sources. At the ending of the process, the organization then follows up with the community to ensure that the education process is going well and also that the project is exceeding expectations.

Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH)

The Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) is a five-year program that is dedicated to the clean water initiative in Kenya. It is working to create clean and sustainable water sources. The USAID program has six key areas of focus. These areas are water access, infrastructure, sanitation and hygiene, finance, sustainability and governance.

UNICEF

UNICEF is also another organization with the determination of providing clean water sources for Kenya. It helps to establish WASH. UNICEF aims to increases access to clean water for the number of households, schools and hospitals between 2018-2022. Additionally, the organization has helped more than 6,700 communities achieve Open Defecation Free status. Almost 550,000 children use WASH hygiene and sanitation facilities. UNICEF installed more than 1,000 facilities in schools throughout Kenya.

Kenya continues to lack the appropriate access to clean water sources for all of its communities. This causes poverty and directly affects the education of young children. These children do not have the appropriate access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. As a result, this leads to diseases which are one of the leading causes of death for young children. In addition, it leads to setbacks in their education and potential.

The Water Project has stepped in to help the clean water initiative in Kenya. The organization has set up a process that will lead to the appropriate access to clean water in Kenya’s communities. The Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH), is working to provide more accessible water sources, sustainability and education throughout Kenya. Finally, UNICEF has helped to establish WASH, which has helped people use hygiene and sanitation facilities throughout Kenya.

Jamal Patterson
Photo: Flickr

 Sexual Violence in Kenya
Sexual violence exists in all societies and impacts all kinds of people. It does not discriminate based on gender, sexuality or race. Globally, it is estimated that one in three women will experience sexual or physical abuse. However, sexual violence in Kenya is even more frequent due to its high poverty levels. In 2018, 36.1% of the population was living below the poverty line.

The Relationship Between Poverty and Sexual Violence

There are many reasons for and consequences of the correlation between poverty and sexual violence. Here are five facts about this relationship.

  1. Women of all ages living in poverty are more susceptible to being sexually exploited and trafficked. There are at least 20.9 million adults and children who are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sex slavery and forced labor.
  2. Women who work on the flower farms are at higher risk of rape and sexual assault. In Kenya, they make up 75% of the industry workers. One female worker, Julia, shared that the men she worked with closely claimed that if females wear skirts, men want to have sex with them. Because of this, women feel they must be careful and dress “appropriately.” Julia even left a job because she refused to have sex with her superior.
  3. The poverty girls experience increases their exposure to abuse, specifically during walks to and from school. In poorer, rural areas, girls often have to travel further distances to access education, putting them at an increased risk of sexual violence.
  4. Young girls and adult women living in poverty are often reliant on men to financially support them. Therefore, due to lack of funds, shelter and/or adequate education, sexual violence victims in Kenya can find themselves in situations where they are dependent on their abusers.
  5. Sexual assault impacts the lives of women and girls in various ways. Many experience injuries or other health consequences, leaving some unable to work or care for their loved ones. Survivors can also battle mental and emotional trauma, including fear, anxiety, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.

Efforts to Fight Sexual Violence

Although these heinous acts cannot be diminished overnight, progress has been made in the fight against sexual violence in Kenya. For most of its history, Kenya has failed to bring rape cases to court and punish those who have committed these crimes. This is mainly due to corruption in the legal system, families of the victim making deals with the accused or the victim staying silent because the perpetrator is a member of their family.

However, over the last eight years, the Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Program (REEP) has brought more than 500 child rape cases to court and has seen abusers punished. Another important component is providing girls with safe space to speak about what has happened to them and building up their confidence to report abuse. ActionAid, an organization that seeks to end violence and extreme poverty around the world, established Girls’ Clubs in nations like Kenya to provide this crucial support.

The Next Steps

While some progress has been made, sexual violence in Kenya remains prevalent. This is something that will not just go away; for survivors to feel safe and heard, further action needs to be taken.

One way to make headway is to end the stigma that victims are at fault for what happened to them. No one should be blamed and shamed for the trauma they endure. Even the authorities have this attitude and often turn accusers away. Instead, Kenyan authorities should make certain that health care workers follow a distinct protocol to make sure referrals are given to victims. Further, doctors and police should properly collect, document and store all evidence in cases of sexual violence presented to them.

Another way to mitigate the issue is to support organizations that are helping survivors. After an instance of sexual violence in Kenya, less than 10% of victims receive any sort of professional help. This is either because they are fearful of speaking up or they cannot afford it. Support organizations that aid in the prevention, protection and response of addressing sexual violence, including such as ActionAid and the Wangu Kanja Foundation, are essential to helping survivors.

 

Moving forward, more work needs to be done to decrease sexual violence in Kenya. Recognizing the correlation between poverty and sexual violence is essential to understanding where and how to concentrate efforts and make the greatest impact. Hopefully, the coming years will see a decrease in sexual violence in the country.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

5 Developing Nations Harnessing Solar Power
Approximately 840 million people lack access to electricity, most of whom live in developing nations in South Asia, Latin America and rural Africa. In India, around 300 million people live without electricity. In addition, the number is twice as high in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the majority of developing nations have enormous solar power potential. Almost all of Africa receives 325 days of strong sunlight a year. Countries in Central Asia have an average of 250 days of sunlight a year. Additionally, many nations are capitalizing on that resource to increase access to electricity and alleviate energy poverty. In 2017, the developing world surpassed first world countries in renewable energy production, largely due to investments in solar. Here are examples of five developing nations harnessing solar power.

5 Developing Nations Harnessing Solar Power

  1. China: China has more solar energy capacity than any other nation in the world, with 130 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV). If all the solar grids were to operate at once, it would generate enough electricity to power the entire United Kingdom several times over. In addition, China is home to many solar farms, including the world’s largest solar plant located in the Tengger Desert. The advent of solar power has directly benefited more than 800,000 poverty-stricken families. Since 2014, when the Chinese government launched a Solar PV for Poverty Alleviation Program, more than 7.9 gigawatts of power has gone to impoverished rural areas. These solar-powered facilities provide employment opportunities and boost household income, in addition to supplying affordable and reliable electricity.
  2. India: Although India’s power system is one of the largest in the world, per capita electricity consumption is less than one-third of the global average. This is largely due to the need for reliable, affordable and sustainable power. To alleviate energy poverty, the Indian government announced an ambitious target of 175 gigawatts of power. Additionally, around 100 gigawatts would come from solar by 2022. Starting with less than 1 gigawatt of solar in 2010, India has around 34 gigawatts of solar power today. In addition to alleviating energy poverty, estimates determined that this project could create over 670,00 new, clean-energy jobs.
  3. Bangladesh: Bangladesh is pursuing solar home systems and microgrid programs to alleviate energy poverty in rural areas. The country has installed more than 5.2 million solar-home systems. This provides electricity to almost 12 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people. In cooperation with the World Bank and other private organizations, the government supplies more than 1,000 solar irrigation pumps and microgrids. Off-grid solar power is rapidly transforming the lives of Bangladesh’s rural population, where more than a quarter still lack access to electricity. The introduction of solar power has brought reliable, sustainable energy to households, allowing families to work, study and go out after dark.
  4. Kenya: More than a quarter of Kenyans still lack access to electricity. In response to this challenge, the Kenyan government launched the Kenya National Electrification Strategy. This strategy outlines a plan to achieve universal access to electricity by 2022. Additionally, this roadmap emphasizes the importance of solar power as a means for electrifying rural areas. The government’s commitment to increasing access to clean electricity and partnership with private institutions is working to alleviate energy poverty. For instance, a local company called Solibrium provides affordable solar panels and lamps to more than 50,000 households. Another example is M-KOPA Solar, a private Kenyan corporation, that has installed 225,000 solar energy products in the country.
  5. Rwanda: Rwanda is home to Africa’s fastest built solar power project, which builders constructed within six months in 2014. The power plant has some 28,360 solar panels that produce 8.5 megawatts of energy. The grid increases Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6 percent and powers more than 15,000 homes. Other solar plants across the country provide sustainable and affordable electricity. Rwanda is conducting feasibility studies on the development of further solar power plants in Rwanda.

Energy poverty or the lack of, including electricity and clean cooking facilities, remains a barrier to global prosperity and individual well-being. That is why ensuring basic energy for 100 percent of the world’s population by 2030 is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. These five developing nations harnessing solar power are leading the way in turning the lights on.

Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Flickr

World Hunger Relief farming
World Hunger Relief is a nonprofit organization that has dedicated itself to lessening food insecurity and malnutrition through community development and sustainable agriculture. Since its inception in 1976, the Waco, Texas-based nonprofit has educated individuals on sustainable agricultural development. Additionally, World Hunger Relief has international partnerships in Liberia and El Salvador. By using sustainable agriculture to alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition, the nonprofit is improving livelihoods and helping reduce poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world.

International Partnerships

World Hunger Relief trains interns from across the world how to produce and maintain a sustainable farm. The hands-on approach is especially beneficial for those that come from countries where subsistence farming is a popular occupation, such as Liberia. Job Carpenter is one intern from Liberia that visited the Waco, Texas farm in 2013 and used what he learned about sustainable agriculture systems for his current occupation.

Carpenter is the agricultural director at Ricks Institute, which is one of World Hunger Relief’s international partners. At Ricks Institute, Carpenter helped strengthen food security for the local school in Liberia and the surrounding community. Student health also increased through the efforts of Ricks Institute. Liberia, for reference, has a poverty rate of about 50 percent. More than 60 percent of Liberians are farmers, so the nonprofit’s outreach in Liberia potentially helps many locals who are malnourished and in poverty.

Local Work Goes Global

In addition to international endeavors, World Hunger Relief works locally in Waco. The 40-acre farm near Lacy Lakeview uses organic insecticides and fertilizers. Cover crops are another method to control pests, erosion and weeds. To complete the cycle, the farm uses compost from farm animals not only as fertilizer but also as a way to reduce diseases and pollution, improve the soil structure and increase soil nutrients. It was at the farm in Waco, Texas that Nicodemus Emus learned sustainable farming. Emus interned at the farm and brought his knowledge of sustainable agriculture back to Nairobi, Kenya. There, he began his own sustainable farm. So far, there have been more than 360 interns covering 20 countries at the World Hunger Relief farm.

The farm includes crops such as pumpkins, okra, beans, squash and cucumbers. It also teaches animal husbandry, particularly techniques in raising animals with little resources available. Goats, rabbits and hogs are among the animals on the farm. On working and living on the farm in a team of interns and various full-time members, Garden Manager Gala Gerber said, “We can see that we can make a difference together.”

The Ultimate Goal

World Hunger Relief continues to achieve its goals of alleviating food insecurity and malnutrition through its efforts on its farm and through international partnerships. One reason why world hunger has declined from 32.6 percent in 2000 to 22.2 percent in 2018 is the combined efforts of nonprofits, governments and other organizations. World hunger is declining, though people can do more. The United Nations proposed ending world hunger by 2030. More organizations are working together in order to accomplish this goal.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Treat Cattle with Diseases
More than 500 million Africans gain money to support their families through the practice of small scale farming. As a result, healthy cattle are crucial because they offer meat, milk and labor. Keeping cattle healthy is critical to farmers who are trying to earn a living. However, many farm animals die every year in Africa from preventable diseases, especially in Ethiopia, which has the largest population of livestock in Africa. VetAfrica, a mobile app that first debuted in 2014, provides tips to farmers on how to diagnose and treat cattle with diseases.

Who Does it Reach?

VetAfrica tackles diseases in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda because more than 80 percent of people in those countries work in farming. Some diseases that the app included are anaplasmosis (a disease that tick bites cause) and fasciolosis (a parasitic worm infection).

How Does it Work?

There are three main parts to the app: VetAfrica Mobile, VetAfrica Hub and VetAfrica Expert. VetAfrica Mobile gives information about disease symptoms to farms in order to educate them about how to identify them in their cattle. It also allows farmers to share data with other farmers to spread awareness and possible paths to treat cattle with diseases. VetAfrica Hub is an online website to sort and evaluate data that farmers upload to the app. Through VetAfrica Hub, farmers and health care specialists can learn about cases of cattle diseases and be aware of possible disease outbreaks. VetAfrica Expert lets medical professionals add information to the app about possible diseases.

Criticisms

One of the main criticisms of VetAfrica is that many Africans cannot use it because they may not have access to a smartphone or WiFi. To address the problem, VetAfrica creators designed the app to work offline. Proponents for VetAfrica also explain that purchasing a smartphone to use will provide various benefits to farmers outside of just saving their cattle, such as educational tools for their children.

Successes

The VetAfrica app has diagnosed more than 2,000 cases so far and 80 percent of the app’s diagnoses matched those of professional veterinarians. The app also helped farmers find quick diagnoses and treatments for their cattle, improving the quality of life and overall lifespan and productivity of their cattle. Data that uploaded to the VetAfrica database also helped spread the word about possible disease outbreaks to health care officials.

Overall, the implementation of VetAfrica to treat cattle with diseases has drastically changed the lives of East African farmers. The app provides a new perspective to farmers about cattle diseases, allowing them to be more knowledgeable and active in keeping their cattle healthy. VetAfrica, an app that is saving cattle from diseases every day has brought a newfound sense of economic prosperity to East African farmers.

Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Malnutrition in Kenya
In Africa, about 257 million people do not know where their next meal will come from. This means that approximately 20 percent of the population is experiencing severe hunger as a result of the continent’s economic crisis and extremely dry conditions. Food prices soar in response to poor harvests and crop failures, leaving many to starve if action is not taken. Fortunately, humanitarian aid organizations like UNICEF reduce the impact of hunger in impoverished countries across Africa by stepping in with malnutrition prevention and treatment strategies that continue to save lives. This is how UNICEF is fighting malnutrition in Kenya.

The State of Malnutrition in Kenya

Kenya’s food insecurity issue is a direct byproduct of the country’s low agricultural productivity that is caused by a lack of rainfall. About 80 percent of the East African country’s land is arid.  These dry, drought-like conditions only exacerbate the dilemma of low crop and livestock production. This leads to a shortage of food, and the available food is often sold at an inflated, unaffordable price.

More than 3.4 million Kenyans are facing severe food insecurity and around 400,000 children under the age of 5 are malnourished. Approximately 26 percent of children 5 and under are stunted, while another 4 percent are chronically emaciated or “wasting.” With malnutrition being the leading cause of death in children, it is vital that something is done to prevent this hunger.

Taking Action

Luckily, UNICEF is taking action. Founded in 1946, UNICEF is fighting malnutrition in Kenya from the inside by providing millions of people with resources, medical treatment and even counseling. The organization’s Vitamin A Supplementation Policy helped more than 3 million children to receive Vitamin A, a nutrient that is crucial for the human body to develop properly. This supplementation program has helped children fight malnutrition by allowing them to build strong immune systems and reduce dehydration. According to UNICEF, Vitamin A supplements can increase a child’s chance of survival by as much as 24 percent.

In 2017, UNICEF provided malnutrition screenings to over 450,000 impoverished children through outreach services. This program was in response to Kenya’s national drought emergency that was declared in April of that year, which was projected to cause a rapid spike in food shortages. These screenings were able to provide life-saving treatments for children that were suffering from the effects of malnutrition.

Iron Folic Acid (IFA) prevents low iron levels in the body while also promoting proper growth and development. UNICEF recently donated Iron Folic Acid supplements to over 2.5 million women of reproductive age through the Girls’ Iron-Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) Programme, allowing adolescent girls and women to decrease their susceptibility to anemia. Since IFA is often used as a prenatal supplement, UNICEF is fighting child malnutrition in Kenya before it even starts.

In addition to increasing a child’s chance of survival, feeding practices like breastfeeding can promote optimal growth and development. Through the Community Health System, UNICEF counseled more than 1.7 million new mothers on safe and proper breastfeeding. By teaching mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding, UNICEF has saved even more children from experiencing malnutrition at an early age.

Moving Forward

Kenya has made significant progress in reducing malnutrition rates. By promoting good nutrition and providing resources and outreach services, UNICEF has improved the lives of millions of families. As far as 2022, UNICEF plans on continuing to integrate nutrition-specific strategies to help fight malnutrition in Kenya.

– Hadley West
Photo: Flickr

Global Energy Poverty
Around 840 million people around the world have no access to electricity. Global energy poverty is prevalent with most living in developing nations in South Asia, Latin America and rural Africa. In India, more than 300 million people lack access to electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, that number is twice as high.

Energy poverty or the lack of access to modern energy services, including electricity and clean cooking facilities, remains a barrier to global prosperity and individual well-being. That is why ensuring basic energy for 100 percent of the world’s population by 2030 is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, at the current rate of progress, 650 million people will still live in the dark. Microgrids have the potential to improve that course and eliminate global energy poverty.

What are Microgrids?

Microgrids or mini-grids are small, localized power grids. They can operate on their own using local energy generation without needing a connection to a larger power grid. Renewable resources power most along with diesel back-up and batteries.

Microgrids can power fridges, fans, irrigation pumps and other basic machinery. With microgrid energy, families can power appliances that save time on household chores, farmers can increase crop yield with irrigation and schools can light their classrooms.

Benefits of Microgrids

With low costs and high yields, microgrids could end global poverty. The price of batteries, solar and other energy technologies has been decreasing since 2010, in turn reducing the cost of microgrids. The International Energy Agency named localized power grids as the most cost-effective option to deliver electricity to more than 70 percent of the unconnected. Continued innovation will further drive cost reduction.

Microgrids are also modular, easy to transport and simple to install. This makes them especially valuable in remote and rural areas.

Use of Microgrids

In India and Sub-Saharan Africa, microgrids are already electrifying and transforming communities. SmartPower India, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, has used microgrids to power more than 100 villages and serve 40,000 people. Since the project launched in 2015, carpenters and tailors have more than doubled their productivity, farmers have built cold storage facilities to keep produce and entrepreneurs have opened small businesses. Local economies grew by $18.50 per capita.

In Kenya, a solar company is using microgrids to deliver power to villages deep in the African bush. SteamaCo’s microgrids supply 10,000 households and businesses across 25 villages with electricity. This has allowed for businesses to trade longer, students to study after dark and communities to grow more independent.

A lack of access to modern, reliable and affordable energy services hinders communities and cripples economies. It is time to turn the light on for the billions of people without access to electricity. Microgrids could end global energy poverty.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

Climate Change Causes Plagues of Locusts in KenyaKenya and other nations in East Africa are under siege from a plague of billions and billions of locusts “in numbers not seen in generations,” according to the Washington Post. The locusts are from Somalia and Yemen, where conflict inhibits governments from stopping the locusts’ breeding. Meanwhile, climate change has caused unseasonable rains in East Africa, which is in the locusts’ migration path, the destination of which is lush feeding grounds further inland. Here is more information about the plagues of locusts in Kenya.

Climate Change Causes Plagues of Locusts in Kenya

The desert locusts have been a problem for East Africa since the beginning of 2020 if not sooner. The U.N. anticipates that the problem will worsen by the summer. Specifically, some project the number of locusts to multiply 500 times by June 2020. This is the greatest locust threat that Kenya has experienced in the last 70 years, and the U.N. fears that more countries are at risk too.

The Causes of the Plagues of Locusts in Kenya

The plague of locusts is due to a confluence of factors, namely climate-change-related events and armed-conflict, which exacerbated the issue. The locusts, which first ravaged the arid counties of Mandera and Wajir in north-eastern Kenya, came from Ethiopia and Somalia.

The weather in Kenya and elsewhere in the region has been unseasonably wet and hot due to climate-change-related cyclones in the Arabian Peninsula in May and October 2018. These conditions are perfect for generations of locust eggs to breed and hatch.

Climate change has worsened the locust problem because it has caused the warming of the Indian Ocean. This is responsible for increased and more severe tropical cyclones in the area. Furthermore, the warm temperatures aid the locust eggs in hatching and the winds help the locusts to spread. In addition, people cannot spray insecticide to control the locusts while it rains.

The Plague’s Effects

The most devastating effect of the plague of locusts is that it threatens the food security of the Kenyan people and the surrounding sub-region of Africa. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) considers desert locusts to be one of the most dangerous flying pests because they can fly long distances and thus migrate in a short period of time.

Each locust can eat its own weight in food every day, so when a swarm the size of Luxembourg descends upon Kenya, that is a huge problem. In fact, that number of locusts can eat the same amount of food as 10s of millions of people. The plague of locusts is a threat to the Kenyan economy, which is dependent on its agricultural exports. In 2019, the agricultural sector made up 26 percent of the country’s GDP. Due to these economic problems, Kenya’s currency could depreciate, which would be catastrophic.

International Response

The U.N.’s FAO has called on the international community to provide aid to “avert any threats to food security, livelihoods, malnutrition” from the unprecedented and devastating swarms of locusts. According to the FAO, aerial control, meaning insecticide that an aircraft sprays, is the only way to deal with the locusts, which local and national authorities have not been able to adequately deal with.

Kenya and other nations in East Africa are facing a perfect storm of climate-change-related weather events and conflicts in surrounding countries that have led to an unprecedented plague of locusts with the potential to cause famine. This locust plague is evidence of how climate change causes real damage to humans, most frequently from developing countries. Thus, the world must address the root cause of climate change to prevent catastrophic events like this from happening in the future.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Bicycles and Poverty Alleviation
While the discussion of bicycles may elicit thoughts of expense or leisure, bicycles and poverty alleviation link together. Bicycles first came about in the 19th century as a means of transport in response to the dearth of horses. Transportation has continued to be the vital use of the bike. Additionally, people around the world have begun seeing the additional benefits of cycling, particularly in less wealthy areas.

People bike all over the world. This fact has held true since 1817 when German inventor Karl von Drais crafted what people widely accept as the first bicycle. Some cities and countries boast more bicycles than people. For instance, in the Netherlands, 22.5 million bicycles outnumber the 17 million person population. In less financially stable areas of the world, there might be fewer bicycles. However, the importance of bicycles to the livelihood and health of residents is just as strong.

Food Security

Food security is an area where the connection between bicycles and poverty alleviation is particularly prevalent. In addition, food security refers to a state of living in which nutritious and sufficient food is physically, socially and economically available to a person. When an area struggles with poverty, food security can be a constant source of stress for residents. In developing countries, small-scale rural farmers are often responsible for an area’s main food production. However, these farmers can face difficulty selling their crops when transport options to markets are not available. Additionally, when transport to markets or cities is available, the cost can present another barrier to those living in poverty.

On a small scale, a bicycle can help a farming family gain buyers for their crops. Also, it helps lift the community out of poverty. Moreover, when food is available for purchase, productivity increases and food distribution improves. This benefits the entire community. One nonprofit, Cycling out of Poverty (CooP), has created a program called Bike4Work, which provides farmers access to bicycles and trailers to haul their food. Bike4Work is an innovative contribution to some of the struggles that poverty has created in rural farming areas.

Access to Water

The method of sustainable transport can also help ease the burden of accessing safe and clean water. When water sources are not readily available in a town, residents must expend great physical effort and time in order to access this necessity. In addition, bicycles can help shorten the journey and lessen the amount of energy they need to obtain water.

Additionally, bicycles have cropped up in a more unusual manner in Kenya as a response to increased difficulties of farming and water access due to climate change. In Kenya, seasonal farmers rely on yearly rainy seasons to create a successful harvest. However, changes to the local climate have made water more scarce, creating issues with the irrigation of crops. CooP, the same charity that used bicycles to help ease food scarcity, has implemented an innovative bicycle-powered water pump in Kisumu, Kenya.

Kisumu is the third-largest city in Kenya. Climate change and lack of water for irrigation affected Kisumu. CooP partnered with organizations in Kenya and neighboring cities in Uganda to install this bicycle-powered pump at The Green Hub Shop, a local store in Kisumu. The water pump efficiently and inexpensively sucks water from local streams and rivers to provide irrigation for farmers across Kisumu.

Bicycles and Public Health

Bicycles and poverty alleviation efforts have combined in another seemingly unlikely manner in Kibibi, Uganda. Village health teams have begun using bicycles with adapted trailers as ambulances in emergency situations. This adaptation is crucial for Uganda because 77 of the 121 districts lack an ambulance service.

Bicycle ambulances are just one way that cycling has been improving public health in impoverished areas. Riding a bicycle also has undeniably beneficial health effects, both on the physical body and on the mind. Cycling is a form of exercise that can benefit the heart without having the same strain that activities such as running can bring.

Erik Wright, Program Director for Bike and Build, a U.S. charity that links bicycles and poverty alleviation through affordable housing, argues for the positive effect cycling has on mental health. Wright speaks of the “feeling of freedom” that having a bicycle can elicit, along with a sense of independence owning and riding a bike can bring. Psychiatric studies have proven the benefits that riding a bike has on mental health. In addition, when combined with increased ease of access to food, water and health care, the link between bicycles and poverty alleviation efforts strengthens.

Pedaling Onwards

Bicycles are not an all-encompassing solution to poverty by any means. Yet, the benefits that bicycles bring to impoverished areas are undeniable. Bicycles provide increased access to necessities while providing physical and mental health benefits, all at a cheaper cost than most transportation systems. In the fight against all the struggles that poverty brings, the link between bicycles and poverty alleviation proves beneficial on a personal, familial and regional scale.

Elizabeth Baker
Photo: Flickr