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A Dry Christmas

Viterbo, Italy -- Christmas at the Kericho district of western Kenya used to be marked by heavy rains.

“Today, Christmas is usually dry,” said 53-year-old farmer Nelly Damaris Chepkoskei. “The dry season is hotter to the extent that now all the grass dries up. This was not the case before, when the grass would remain green even during the dry season.”

As a result, Nelly's cows produce less milk. The dry soil also leaves her 3-hectare farm, planted to maize and tea, vulnerable to erosion when the rains eventually come. In the meantime, during periods of drought, women spend more time and walk longer distances to fetch water.

Fortunately, nearly an acre of Nelly's farm is devoted to an indigenous tree nursery which generates enough income for her to send two of her five children to college.

“To convince my neighbors to plant more trees, I once pledged 200 seedlings to my church but the pastor announced that I am giving away 2,000 seedlings,” she said. “I believed that was the word of God so I gave away 2,000 seedlings. A few days later, someone came to my nursery to buy 50,000 shillings worth of trees. That's not bad for a 16,000 shilling investment.”

As Nelly talks to other women around her district to convince them to plant more trees, they tell her stories of how the changing climate have affected them. More pests attack their crops and malaria is now common in Kericho and other highland districts. One of Nelly's daughters died of malaria.

Kenyan scientists have provided evidence for what Nelly and her fellow farmers have observed. They conclude that climate change indeed is taking its toll on Kenya's vulnerable communities. Christmas in Kericho district will continue to remain dry.

Adlai Amor is director of communications at Bread for the World. He met Nelly Damaris Chepkoskei at the GreenAccord International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature, Viterbo, Italy, Nov. 25-29, 2009.

 

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