Hope and Crisis: Climate Losses & Perseverence in Kenya

When we witness the relentless onslaught of extreme weather in Kenya, we’re tempted to wonder about how to hang on to hope. The deck looks impossibly stacked against Kenyans for whom drought, flooding and changing disease and pest vectors are spreading hunger and poverty.

But in the last few days, we’ve seen some examples of amazing resiliency and initiative. Community self-help organizations are terracing hillside fields to conserve water and prevent erosion. They are adopting Farming God’s Way, a gospel-based form of conservation agriculture that enhances soil health and conserves moisture. They are planting indigenous trees in many places to restore ecosystems and resist desertification. They are building remarkable sand dams, which turn seasonally-dry rivers into year-round water sources, and raise the water table.

Where these initiatives are being implemented, parched communities are showing marked improvement. Women walk fewer kilometers to carry water home for their families. Children’s clothes are washed more frequently.  Crops flourish in the shade of the replanted tree canopy. Biodiversity is returning, with a wonderful assortment of birds, lizards and others of God’s creatures. And all this, despite indisputable evidence that the climate is becoming harsher, hotter, and more extreme.

We read Psalm 104 in our morning devotions together, and we think of these Kenyan communities – “You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.” For the moment, our hearts sing.

But then, in a cruel reminder of this harsh new world, we hear the news from our friends – Scott and Jennifer Myhre – in nearby Kijabe. More than five inches of rain the night before last pummeled the surrounding area in only two hours. The road into Kijabe was rendered impassible. The mission hospital and the Rift Valley Academy were cut off. Water supplies were threatened.

Record rains sweep away Kenyan hillsides

Record rains sweep away Kenyan hillsides

And then last night, another 1.5 inches fell. Mudslides again closed the roads. Water supply pipes to the Kijabe Hospital have been destroyed, rendering this vital community lifeline almost useless. Many homes, businesses and schools have been seriously damaged.

And worst of all, three little girls have been killed in the mudslides.

Already this month, Kijabe has had more rain than normally falls in an average year, according to local ecologists who monitor these patterns. The community has planted many trees, but those trees can only do so much to hold the soil in place, in the face of such a torrent. And with the mudslides go valuable topsoil, young trees, this year’s crops, access to the hospital, and yes – three precious little girls.

Let me acknowledge the Christian Reformed Church (CRCNA) in all this. Last year, the Synod adopted the Creation Stewardship Task Force Report. The key findings of your church were these:

  • Climate change is occurring and is very likely due to human activity
  • Human-induced climate change is a moral, ethical, and religious issue
  • Human-induced climate change poses a significant threat to future generations, the poor, and the vulnerable
  • Human-induced climate change, as a global phenomenon, poses a significant challenge to us all
  • Urgent action at the personal, communal, and political levels is required to address climate change.

But you didn’t stop with the science, or with broad ethical statements. You sent your own people to vulnerable communities to see for themselves, and to report back to you. That’s a major reason why we’re here in Kenya, and that’s why we’re sending these messages back to you.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

 

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