The Africa Center Newsroom

When Simon Choko goes out fishing on Kenya’s lake Turkana, he brings a gun as well as a net. The northwest corner of Kenya has witnessed on-going drought, coupled with an increase in the availability of firearms.  As a result, the Turkana community to which Choko belongs is involved in deadly conflict with rivals from across the border in neighboring Ethiopia, as local groups are competing for scarce resources. Continue reading for Choko's full story.

According to a report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and partner organisations, some areas of Kenya may receive more rainfall as climate patterns shift. Although climate predictions suggest that rainfall will increase in some areas, decreases in rainfall may be seen in some of the most productive agriculture provinces.   Initiatives to help pastoralists adapt to these uncertain futures is underway.  Local groups are partnering with international agencies to promote "Climate-Smart Villages" that provide practical adaptation options to improve food security and resilience.

Illegal small arms have been a common feature of cattle raiding, resource conflict and retaliatory attacks in rural northern Kenya for the last 20 years. Recently, however there has been an increase in the use of arms in urban areas.   Conflict and robberies are on the rise throughout urban sprawls with  unfortunately no end in sight.  

Farmers in Dodoma, Tanzania have long relied on traditional weather forecasting methods to decide when to plant their maize crops. Since 2007, ongoing drought has threatened harvests. The FarmSMS initiative, led by the Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA), aims to help farmers reduce the risk of crop failure by delivering real-time weather information to mobile handsets that can inform planting decisions

Firewood has long been used as a cooking fuel in many homes in rural Kenya. But demand for timber is stripping the countryside of its mature trees.  A growing number of Kenyans, however, have discovered an alternative way to increase incomes; farming mangoes.  This practice can help absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while at same time providing farmers with a reliable cash crop in an arid region struggling to produce staple crops like maize.

Indigenous farmers living in Kenya’s Rift Valley have traditionally observed the behavior of insects to help predict future weather scenarios.  This traditional knowledge helped guide decisions about when to prepare land for planting, as well as what kinds of crops to sow.  However, climate change, the increasingly variable weather patterns, and human activities in the Rift Valley region have led to a decline in insect populations making it difficult for farmers to predict the weather for the coming season.​

Tanzania has set a goal to become a middle-income economy by 2025, a feat that may only be accomplished if the government can successfully increase agricultural production.  To reach this goal, Tanzania has ushered in a coterie of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to help support agriculture all along the supply chain. Enterprising firms promising better seeds, fertilizers and outputs are entering into the mix. And the government is also supporting the growth of large farms, too, which they say could employ technology to assist small farmers via local agreements. Still, the government of Tanzania faces challenges on many fronts, including resistance from farmers reluctant to change traditional agricultural practices, and the ongoing difficulty of adapting to a changing—and less predictable—climate.

The American Anthropological Association's (AAA) Global Climate Change Task Force (GCTF) just wrapped up a three day seminar at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The task force met, including our very own SAES member Kathleen Galvin, to discuss and critique papers on the issues where anthropology connects to climate change and climate change policy.

Sacred forests across the globe are among the few remaining forest ecosystems that have been spared by loggers, but they are increasingly under threat. In Kenya, the Mrima sacred hill forest on the coastal strip of Kwale County is under threat from miners who want to exploit valuable, rare minerals like niobium, which is used in steel production, electronics and medical devices. However, the area's Kaya elders are fighting back!  And so are the scientists who recognize the importance of these ecosystems that are host to rare and endemic species.  

Hybrid seeds are growing in popularity as they offer higher potential yields under good conditions.  However, as local climate regimes become more variable and unpredictable, local farmers in Zimbabwe are opting for traditional crop varieties. Some farmers believe that these more traditional varieties enhance resilience under unpredictable conditions by increasing crop diversity and food variety throughout the year.  Still, agricultural scientists consider hybrid varieties the better choice in terms of overall productivity and market integration potential.  

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