Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) and Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT) implement various projects in the Ewaso Ecosystem, a region that is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Extreme shifts in weather patterns in Laikipia have led to adverse impacts on social, physical, ecological and economic systems. People suffer from water shortages and failed crops. They hungrily search for food and pastures.
Together, NRT and LWF are working with Planning for Resilience in East Africa to address climate change. Through key programs such as Policy Adaptation, Research and Economic Development (PREPARED), or the Regional Center for Mapping Resource for Development (RCMRD/SEVIR), they hope to come up with a Vulnerability Impact Assessment (VIA) model. “This model will eventually help NRT, LWF and the Ewaso Ecosystem communities make decisions about ways to adapt to climate change. Climate change is a real threat, and we will need all the innovation and community participation we can muster in order to adapt successfully”, says Peter Hetz, LWF’s Executive Director.
Laikipia has been experiencing declining crop yields and food insecurity, particularly in areas where pastoralism is practiced. The long rains are often slow to begin. Grazing areas go for long periods without rainfall, rendering the landscape barren and unusable. Mount Kenya is part of the larger Ewaso Ecosystem and most rivers in Laikipia originate from it. Only 10 of the 18 glaciers that covered Mount Kenya’s summit a century ago remain, leaving less than one third of the previous ice cover. The ice on Mount Kenya has also become thinner. Emerging evidence suggests that this decline has accelerated since the 1970s. By 2010, Lewis Glacier (the largest on Mount Kenya) decreased by 90% in volume since 1934. The highest rates of ice-volume loss occurred around the turn of the century (Prinz, et al.,2011). Mount Kenya is valuable for timber, farmland, and tourism and its forested slopes are critical for water catchment, acting as “water towers” for much of the country (UNEP 2009). Climate change impacts glaciers, which in turn affects the seasonal flow of springs and rivers running through Laikipia County.
At the end of 2015, not only was the threat of drought an issue in Laikipia, but so was flooding. Major towns like Nanyuki experienced water rationing. Similarly, there have been increased conflicts reported by the Kenya Police as well as conservationists among pastoralist communities.
All this evidence points to the fact that now, more than ever, Laikipians need to make sure that water withdrawal from the region’s rivers and streams is carefully planned. Laws regarding water conservation and management must be adhered to. Too many people are appropriating water without stopping to consider the ramifications. Being more mindful about water use will help reduce conflict during Laikipia’s dry season.
Many community stressors are linked to our current unpredictable weather changes. It is our hope that the Vulnerability Impact assessment (VIA) model may help organisations and county government to adapt properly to climate change, enabling them to better address the issues in adequate time. Partnerships between entities such as NRT, LWF, and local legislative offices will be critical factors in mitigating climate change in Laikipia