2015 Mandela Washington Fellows Peace Musonge and Andrew Chikomba joined the YALI Network for a three-day #YALICHAT on climate change, agriculture and green solutions. Read the highlights below.
Peace is a scientist and social entrepreneur from Uganda, and founder of Uganda Artemia Fish Farms Enterprise, which researches innovative green technologies to diversify organic aquaculture produce. She is passionate about using science and technology to engage and improve the livelihoods of communities.
Andrew founded Gemwitts Enterprises, a green solutions company, in Zimbabwe in 2012. He has a passion for technology and entrepreneurship and serves communities by providing honest and practical solutions to their problems using appropriate technology and renewable solutions.
From James in Uganda: How can climate change move away from lip service to action?
Peace Musonge: Hi James, action starts with you.By taking the initiative to learn about climate change and educate your local communities you will make it more of an action than lip service.There are many cost effective ways you can adapt to take action and be part of the Eco-generation( tree planting, recycling, adopting green lifestyle habits (http://goodgreenhabits.com/category/ecofriendly/)
Andrew Chikomba: That’s an interesting question James, generally people’s perceptions to a situation determine their action towards it. It is true that most people are still skeptical about the reality and seriousness of climate change when the scientific evidence is so overwhelming.
However we need to realize that some of these skeptics are intelligent people who can see for a fact that global warming is in total existence.
The only plausible reason that they have not turned from lip service to action is that probably they have not come to a consensus and agreement on a way forward in terms of how to combat climate change issues. Our values, ideologies and cultural world views towards global warming need to change,and as much as science is telling us that Climate change is occurring and science is telling us what is causing climate change , science has not specifically told us how to respond to it .
Those responses and solutions need to be relevant to specific communities. People need solutions that are practical and relevant to their environments otherwise they will simply not adopt them. I believe that we need to involve the affected communities in coming up with strategies and solutions that are relevant to them so that they can take ownership and actually put to action their solutions.
James: Andrew Chikomba well said my take on this is that can we make room for real change movers to attend the so called summits for climate change? It hurts all the time to hear world leaders sitting in these summits year in year out. The conferences are attended by highly placed individuals yet if given opportunity I would make these women and men I see the tree nursery beds,the rural farmers it would be nice to pick people with the best practices to be role models.
Muzo in Zambia: Won’t sustainable green solutions hinder Africa to develop? Because as far as i am concerned no known country has ever developed or showing signs of developing solely relying on green energy.
Peace Musonge: It is a vital question to think about given the history of development has been dominated by fossil fueled economies. China has moved about 680 million out of poverty by mostly burning coal. However, there are reasons for thinking positively about the transition. Current practices from the energy sector has found that some countries would save a lot of money from moving to green energies. For instance diesel powered generators mean that some Africans are using the most expensive electricity. In general one should consider that the world is transitioning to a future of less fossil use meaning more taxes on carbon and more investment opportunities for green solutions. So while the use of fossil fuels is inexpensive with short term benefits the use of green energies especially for Africa will be more beneficial in the long term. Africa can not afford to move in the opposite direction as the world moves forward. There is a risk that fossil fuel infrastructure will be of little value in the future. Moreover, green energy technologies are increasingly competitive with fossil fuel. With a mix of green energy solutions it is possible to achieve long term benefits. However, as we transition fossil fuels will remain a part of energy strategy but with more emphasis on green solutions. This requires more support from western countries who can invest more in research to come up with technologies that will be cheaper for Africa. On the other hand many African’s will in the mean time be exploring the use of cheap fossil fuels if the world lends an unhelpful hand.
Thato in South Africa: I just want to know what kind of sustainable technologies can be used to prevent climate change?
Peace Musonge: Sustainable technologies should aim to mitigate and not prevent climate change. Preventing climate change is not a realistic way to think about managing the impact of climate change. It is more useful to think about technologies that will reduce the effect of climate change. Preventing may involve dangerous measures that could make our climate unsafe. However, the new and old sustainable technologies that have the potential to reduce the effects of climate change include 1) carbon capture using afforestation , wetland restoration, better farming with less fuel or burning bushes 2) renewable energy technologies such as solar energy and hydroelectric energy , nuclear energy-not a favorite for many, hydrogen energy, bio-fuels from waste.
Deon in Namibia: What are some of the most effective ways to engage the community on climate change?
Deon:Hello, Thank you both for taking time out for this yalichat. I would really love to hear your opinions. My first questions are….
Peace, given your professional background can you tell me, what are some of the most effective ways to engage the community? How can I effectively mainstream climate change to young people, business leaders and policy makers to create awareness using technology and science?
Andrew, the idea of providing practical and honest solutions to the green energy technology is genius and I salute you for it. In my country there is a shortage and need of that? I would like to pursue it and wish to know from you, what are the first steps, who are the key stakeholders involved to make it a success? What are the critical important factors I have to consider, like the challenges I could avoid?
Peace Musonge: Hi Deon thanks for your question.Community engagement using science and technology is quite important when sensitizing different stakeholder groups about climate change.However,these groups require different strategies so as to effectively transfer climate change knowledge through science and technology. As a scientist,i always simplify technical jargon for the layman.Young people can be reached using creative and simple info-graphics highlighting issues about climate change and this strategy could be adopted for business owners.In order to influence policy as a scientist i have to give evidence based research and this helps influence policy makers to tackle different environmental issues.
Deon: Thank you very much. I really appreciate the info!
Jean in Kenya: How should people prepare for and help prevent climate change, particularly flooding?
Jean: When Climate change affects us as individuals, it also affects the environment and businesses as well. In Kenya, it has been predicted that come October, we’ll have Elnino rains. How can we brace ourselves for the same and what can steps can we take, however minimal, as individuals from the grassroots and as a group to prevent a repeat of the same in future?
Peace Musonge: Climate change is related to floods and rainfall in many ways. But it is floods that are usually difficult to link to climate change. Floods may be caused by human influences such as land use change for urbanization. Rainfall has a more direct link to climate. Climate change affects areas differently. For example the East African region is likely to get more rainfall while rainfall in southern Africa is likely to decrease.
This finding is from scientists who have used mathematics to see what the future is like. It is not 100 percent certain that this will be true but it is the best estimate we can make from the current understanding of the factors that affect climate. For floods, we can assume that those people living close to the coast will be affected by sea level rise. The oceans are expanding because of increased temperature and the ice is melting. so this may create problems for coastal regions. We can also assume that for areas that receive increased rainfall , for example, East Africa, floods may increase. We should be aware that some floods and rainfall are not linked to climate change but to climate variations that are natural. There are floods and rainfall events that are linked to natural changes in the oceans like El nino or La nina. It is not clear if climate change has enhanced these events.
Fiacre in Benin: How can we adapt our agriculture to have a good production, despite irregular rainy seasons?
Fiacre in Benin: One consequense of the climate change is irregularlity of the rainy season. is there a hope for the comming generation? how can we adapt our agriculture to have a good production?
Peace Musonge: One of the key impacts of climate change is the variability in the weather patterns, which will mainly affect Africa’s rain-fed agricultural sector. Yes, there is hope for the next generation. For agriculture to thrive in the future, African regions will have to prepare for a warmer climate. This warmer climate could lead to the emergence of new challenges such as new diseases and pests which could threaten the food security, economic prosperity and social welfare of the local communities. To cushion these communities, knowledge from crop and climate model studies could be provided and advice given on how to cope with the future changes. Other recommended adaptation measures include:
- Income diversification to reduce dependence on agriculture and identifying novel farming systems, which involve livestock and fisheries.
- Implementation of new technologies to improve water availability
- Crop expansion in cooler regions.
- Promoting conservation agriculture practices especially in water harvesting, nutrient, and pest & disease management.
- Farmers need to change their cropping systems and adopt new crop varieties since some crop types will not be able to be thrive with elevated levels of CO2 . Climatic studies have shown that some crops such as cassava will tend to be resilient to the temperatures, as they possess drought tolerant characteristics. Crops like potatoes, beans and sorghum are most likely to have reduced yields under higher temperatures. This suggests that cassava may replace crops like sorghum.
- Use of crop varieties that are resistant to the projected warming among others. Identification of crop varieties that have a high water efficiency ratio, dry matter conversion ratio, positive response to temperature extremes and elevated CO2.