Community-Based Climate Change Adaptation for Better Health of People

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Flooding in Homa Bay on 10 April 2015 left seven people dead after they were swept away by flood water attempting to cross swollen rivers near Gongo and Kotieno.

BACKGROUND The health of people in an area is closely linked to good environmental practices. People have better health when they live in a healthy environment and likewise healthy people are better able to be good custodians of the environment. This approach is known as Population, Health and Environment (PHE). It’s main aim is to improve the quality of people’s lives by improving the management of natural resources, promoting



sustainable livelihoods, and meeting priority health needs, especially in reproductive health.

disaster management and transport. All these sectors are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

It is the responsibility of County governments to implement national health and environment policies as predetermined in the Kenyan Constitution 2010. The areas of concern indicated for the County also include the provision of public services in agriculture,

This PHE strategy maps out a way by which the community can adapt to the local changes and challenges brought about by climate change, to help them be more resilient.

CLIMATE CHANGE IN HOMA BAY COUNTY Homa Bay is located in the Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria, 107km south of Kisumu in western Kenya. The town of Homa Bay is the capital of the Homa Bay County, which is administered by a Council. The county is suffering the effects of having a rapidly growing population, low food production and low resilience to climate change. People and the environment feel the impact of climate change locally.


The reduced availability of water is causing outbreaks of waterborne diseases, especially in children. The flooding in Karachuonyo when the Sondu-Miriu river burst its banks caused great deal of damage. The current drought (2016/2017) is affecting the ability of farmers to rear cattle or to grow crops. The drought also makes the county more susceptible to incidences of forest fires as the county is greatly deforested.

The result is a greater deterioration of the environment and increasing poverty levels. The livelihoods of most residents in HomaBay County depend on fisheries and rain-fed small-scale farming, practices that are highly vulnerable to environmental degradation and the effects of climate change. Rapid population growth places enormous pressure on natural and environmental resources such as fisheries, forests, water, and land.

Figure 1: Understanding the Connection of Ecosystem Sevices Human well-being and poverty reduction BASIC MATERIAL FOR GOOD LIFE

Indirect drivers of change DEMOGRAPHIC ECONOMIC


(e.g. globolization, trade, market, and policy framework)




(e.g. governance, institutional and legal framework)


SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS (e.g. beliefs, consumption choices)

Ecosystem services

Direct drivers of change



(e.g food, water, fiber and fuel)



(e.g climate regulation, water and disease)

(e.g. globolization, trade, market, and policy framework)



(e.g spiritual, aesthetic, recreation and education)

(e.g. governance, institutional and legal framework)



(e.g primary production, and soil formation)

CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS (e.g. beliefs, consumption choices)


Source:; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005).

Ministry of Agriculture officer demonstrating to model households on how to establish double dug kitchen gardens. PHOTO BY REBECCA IKACHOI

ROAD MAP TO ACHIEVING RESILIENCE TO CLIMATE CHANGE Both a National Climate Change Response Strategy (2010) and a National Climate Change Action Plan (20132017) have been developed to help county governments tackle the challenge of climate change. Homa Bay County can develop its own climate change mediation measures that are compatible with the national plans. To succeed in this, it is recommended that an assessment be completed to better understand both the local impact of climate in the


area and the hopes of people in the county for their health and environment. STEPS TO DEVELOPING A CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN FOR THE COUNTY The aim of charting out a plan is to ensure the county is prepared and able to successfully reduce the impact of climate change on the local community, environment and important sectors (health, agriculture, fisheries) in the county.

1. Identify Stakeholders Developing a plan requires the involvement of local communities and all key people or groups that would have an interest. They can include decision– makers at county and national government levels, community-based organisations, providers of information and civil society representatives. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the vulnerable segments of the society are involved in the process.

Ruma Park SSG conducting Important Bird Area monitoring. Birding can be promoted as a form of ecotourism activity. PHOTO BY REBECCA IKACHOI

2. Identify the habitats, ecosystems and land uses susceptible to being negatively impacted by climate change This should include the ecosystem services they provide with emphasis on the ones that are key in helping local communities overcome their vulnerability to climate change impacts. Ecosystem services Ecosystem services are environmental functions and processes that also benefit humans.


There are numerous free benefits to having a healthy environment. It provides the means to: • Control ecological elements like climate, soil erosion, and water purification • Make it possible to grow food (for agriculture, fisheries, livestock) • Make it easier to have firewood, timber and plant based medicines • Provide for recreation and ecotourism • Ensure the generation of healthy soils

3. Identify potential dangers (hazard mapping) and their severity This is an attempt to answer the question: what are the dangers related to climate change that are likely, or have shown to have an impact on ecosystems and economic activity? For example, identifying areas prone to flooding is vital. Having this knowledge would help when planning for settlements, so as to avoid such areas. This information can be integrated into the Land Use Planning process.

PHE Club members from Orire Primary School setting up a tree nursery. Awareness creation should start at an early stage to ensure upbringing of a responsible generation. PHOTO BY REBECCA IKACHOI

4. Determine adaptation tactics Based on the above steps the county government can decide on which tactics it will adopt to lessen the impact of climate change on the community and the environment. These may include the actions given below: • Develop and implement a Natural Resource Management Plan • Develop a Land Use Plan that includes a Strategic Environmental Assessment • Protect and restore water catchment areas • Replant native vegetation


• •

• •

Reduce sedimentation Protect and restore river banks. Vegetation on riverbanks will help in the conservation of water and soil, act as corridors for migratory species, as well as provide for pollinators. This will ensure sustainable agricultural production and serve as a way of controlling flooding. Develop ecotourism facilities with a low ecological “footprint” Work with the private sector to ensure the training of local tour guides

• • •

Work with the stakeholders in tourism in developing tourism marketing strategies Working with the private sector to develop insurance products to protect farmers against the impacts of climate change on their crops, livestock and fisheries Invest in Early Warning Systems Promote water conservation and rainwater storage Encourage use of crop varieties that are water resistant in areas prone to flooding

A beneficiary displays her energy saving jikos. Greater use of these jikos would reduce emissions and fuel wood use significantly. PHOTO BY REBECCA IKACHOI

• •

Encourage use of drought resistant crops in areas where drought is common Promote fish farming within households to reduce pressure from the lake Create awareness in the community about climate change and its impact

5. Make ecosystem conservation part of the county policy and planning processes 6. Plan for ecosystem conservation There are numerous planning instruments that can be


developed by the Homa Bay County government to help ensure ecological sustainability. These include the following: • •

• •

Land Use Plans Site and habitat management plans for specific conservation areas e.g. Ruma National Park Species Action Plans for globally threatened species, like Roan Antelope A County State of Environment (CSoE) report A County Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

• •

report A County Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (CBSAP) A County Environmental Action Plan (CEAP)

7. Promote environmental safeguards in development projects It is important to provide sufficient ecosystem safeguards in the County Integrated Development Plans to ensure ecological sustainability. Linking development to biodiversity conservation is essential for maintaining ecosystem services.

Marking of World Fisheries Day 2016 at Mainuga Beach, Rachuonyo North Sub-County. PHOTO BY REBECCA IKACHOI

The World Bank and the African Development Bank have set out global safeguard mechanisms. For more on these safeguards visit https:// 8. Develop Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) Undertaking these assessments is good for nature conservation and crucial in avoiding economic pitfalls. For example, at Yala Swamp in Siaya County, Dominion Farms Limited is trying to develop the wetland by converting it into rice fields in spite of the many other


ecosystem services provided by the wetland. 9. Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) In keeping with National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) guidelines all development activities require an Environmental Impact Assessment. However, depending on the magnitude and scale of the project or activity, other additional requirements, like a socialstudy, may also be needed. EIAs should be consultatively developed with the active participation of stakeholders.

Projects EIAs should be submitted to the county government as well as NEMA. To help in the review of EIAs the county government will need to be able to provide professional and objective advice to NEMA in the evaluation of EIAs. What’s more, county finances and personnel will also be required to be put to ensuring that approved EIAs are monitored and their management plans and recommendations fully implemented.

Model households take up bee keeping to diversify the livelihood sources. PHOTO BY REBECCA IKACHOI

10. Enhance county environmental governance County governments need to be able to provide leadership on environment and biodiversity conservation matters to ensure ecological sustainability in the face of rapid socio-economic changes. 11. Take into consideration the cumulative impacts of projects While individually projects may look balanced and sustainable, together they may impose an intolerable pressure on the environment. Collaboration between


different counties may be necessary to ensure that a balance in development is achieved nationally. 12. Encourage and promote innovation in financing ecosystem protection and adaptation to climate change Developing policies that give incentives to the private sector will help to encourage investments in conservation activities. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) are two practices that are familiar in the business community. They provide a way by which

they can support social and environmental projects. Adaption of the model household concept by individual households can ensure that households are more resilient to climate change. At the same time they learn to utilise the land sustainably. Climate change will have an impact on every human community. The local adaptations that are needed to deal effectively with the impact of climate change will need to include ecosystem conservation.

A Public Health Officer demonstrating on how to make a leaky tin (Hand washing facility) to prevent waterborne diseases. PHOTO BY REBECCA IKACHOI

Building local awareness about the connections between environmental conditions and human health will greatly help in securing a better future. Strengthening the capacity of the community to plan and manage resources will also greatly help to avert biodiversity loss, food insecurity, natural disaster incidences, deterioration of the environment and loss of human life and property.


Illustration of a model household showing rainwater harvesting, kitchen garden, agroforestry practices, on-farm fishpond and cows feed with cut grass. COURTESY HOPELVB/PATHFINDER


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