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IRIN - Environment and Disasters





 



Inside Kenya's Turkana region: cattle, climate change, and oil

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 11:26:46 +0000

The county of Turkana, in northwest Kenya, is among the poorest, most marginalised, and most malnourished in the country. Its arid climate and soil conditions render most of its terrain unsuitable for growing crops, so almost all of the county’s 1.3 million inhabitants raise livestock. And although pastoralism accounts for an estimated 12 percent of Kenya’s GDP, successive governments have long neglected the sector as backward, and denied it adequate investment in key areas such as animal health, market access, and water management. As a result, the people of Turkana and, to an even greater extent, their livestock, are particularly vulnerable when drought strikes – as it did during much of 2017.   Your browser does not support the video tag. “Turkana is the epicentre of the drought,” a senior official in the Turkana County government told IRIN, referring to the natural disaster that gripped much of East Africa last year. While conditions have improved significantly since the reporting for this collection of stories was conducted, about half a million goats, sheep, cows, and camels perished in 2017, leaving many households destitute. If recent years are anything to go by, droughts are likely to continue being frequent. They used to happen about once a decade, but, thanks to the effects of climate change, are now happening more regularly and with greater impact. What follows is a selection of IRIN’s recent multimedia coverage of Turkana County, based on several field reporting trips. As well as giving voice to livestock herders and fishermen, who provide a ground-level account of their challenges and hopes, the series also provides detailed analysis of the impact of climate change and of recent economic developments, notably in the petroleum sector.   Drought in Turkana width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/G_ydGfPGHLU?feature=oembed" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="">   Click on the titles below to read each story.     Oil-rich yet on edge in Turkana Vast oil deposits in Kenya’s poorest county could prove a blessing or a curse. Pastoralism and its future There’s much more to herding livestock than meets the eye. In their own words: How drought is bringing despair to Kenyan herders IRIN spoke to several Turkana residents about the impact the drought was having on their lives. Drought pushes Kenya’s pastoralists to the brink People have raised livestock in Kenya’s drylands for centuries. Will climate change soon change that? A way of life under threat in Kenya as Lake Turkana shrinks Some 300,000 people depend on Lake Turkana. Drought and a dam in neighbouring Ethiopia have put their livelihoods at risk. Turkana fishermen want better roads, storage facilities Kalokol fish-landing bay in Kenya's northwestern Turkana region is a hive of activity when the fish come in: Women fishmongers jostle for bargains as they seek to buy smaller fish to sell at the local market, while waiting middlemen rush to load the best fish into their vehicles. Turkana reels from severe drought In Turkana, as in other areas in the predominantly pastoralist north, families are selling their surviving livestock to buy increasingly expensive food. Turkana at risk of further food shortages The region has been hit by drought, insecurity, poor or no harvests, high malnutrition rates, water scarcity and high food prices.   A short film about Lpindirah Lengutuk, a fisherman on Kenya's Lake Turkana Lpindirah Lengutuk, Fisherman | Lake Turkana, Kenya width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EMImJEjv5g0?feature=oembed" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen=""> A short film featuring fisherman Philip Ekuwom Tioko, on Kenya's lake Turkana Philip Ekuwom Tioko, Fisherman | Lake Turkana, Kenya width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtub[...]



The 10 most popular IRIN stories of 2017

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 11:13:36 +0000

While Brexit and a certain Donald J. Trump featured high on our round-up of most-read articles last year, the list for 2017 is a little more eclectic.

Alongside early warning on South Sudan, deep analysis on Syria, and investigative pieces from Iraq and Myanmar, there is space too for UN funding, for cash transfers, for hurricanes, and for famine.

See also: IRIN's top 2017 photos

Here’s the rundown:


Facebook activates Safety Check

Facebook has activated its suite of emergency-related offerings. The page for the earthquake includes the Safety Check feature, which allows people to tell their friends they are OK. A donate button steers public contributions to Global Giving, a funding organisation that lists no projects in Iran, but 12 in Iraq. 


 

(image) iraniraqepicentrebettersymbol.jpg Special Report Environment and Disasters Iran-Iraq earthquake live blog IRIN Iran Middle East and North Africa Iraq



Aid reform in the Pacific held up by power, purse strings, and trust

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 03:15:41 +0000

Furious winds shredded entire villages, stripping off roofs and walls, flinging debris through the air, and burying people under the rubble. It was the 20th of February 2016 and Fiji was on its knees. When all was said and done, Cyclone Winston had crashed through half the population and churned up $1 billion in damages. As the extent of the destruction from the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere became clear, the head of the Fiji Red Cross, Filipe Nainoca, ran through an enormous list of tasks: shelter, water systems, logistics – all of it on an unfathomable scale. He knew the Red Cross, his country even, couldn’t do it alone. “None of us – none of us in Fiji – had ever experienced it before,” Nainoca recalled in an interview with IRIN. “We all needed help. Everybody.”  But Nainoca also had something else on his mind. The international response a year earlier in neighbouring Vanuatu, after Cyclone Pam, had been completely overpowering. International aid agencies, donors, and the United Nations swept in, bringing their own systems and ways of doing things. For Pacific Islanders in the aid community, it was a watershed moment that shaped how subsequent disasters have been managed. When Cyclone Winston struck, Fiji’s government was determined not to let the same thing happen, Nainoca said. And so was he. Nainoca asked the Red Cross umbrella organisation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, for specific expertise. But the foreign aid workers, he cautioned, would have to integrate with his team, not run it. “I made sure that we stayed in control of our response,” he said. Nainoca has a clearly articulated vision of what “localisation” – the aid sector’s latest buzzword for overhauling humanitarian aid – means to him. “It’s our local plan; not a plan that is designed for us.” The debate over locally driven aid takes on added urgency in the Pacific Islands, a region lashed by cyclones, floods, and frequent drought. Rooted in the belief that locals know best what their communities need, “localisation” aims to empower them – whether it be indigenous peoples, community organisations, local NGOs, municipal authorities, or national governments – to lead responses to crises on their own turf. But when it comes to localising aid, the international community has been slow to loosen its own grip on power. ‘Our way’ There’s a particular way disaster response is supposed to work. When a disaster strikes, the government assesses the damage and, if necessary, asks the aid community for support. International agencies are expected to fall in line under a nationally led response. "It means giving up power. It means moving resources" Loti Yates, who leads disaster management for the Solomon Islands government, told IRIN how he sees it: “Whoever comes in will have to work within our context, not the [other] countries working within their [own] context.” But the reality is often far more tangled. When Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu, it also brought in a torrent of NGOs, surge staff, and the aid sector’s labyrinthine coordination system. Some new arrivals had minimal experience working in the Pacific region, let alone Vanuatu. In interviews with IRIN, multiple people from NGOs, governments, and the UN described a response that was overwhelmed and effectively taken over by international staff – to the chagrin of national authorities in Vanuatu, and the anxiety of other Pacific Island nations. “The Cyclone Pam response suggests that despite all of the rhetoric in recent years about the need to ‘localise the humanitarian response’, when we are presented with an opportunity to do this, we struggle to step back and not have things done our way,” a review of the relief efforts by four prominent NGOs concluded. Vlad Sokhin/UNICEF Two children stand near their collapsed home following Cyclone Winston, whi[...]



In the eye of the storm: small island states call for action at climate change summit

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 04:24:47 +0000

Salome Raqiyawa has witnessed three life-changing calamities in a single year. For her, climate change is more than CO2 emissions, scientific projections and grave predictions for tomorrow: It’s her only explanation for what’s happening now to her tiny village perched along the side of a highway on Fiji’s main island. “It’s the changing of the weather patterns that we are facing now. It’s not like before,” she said, sitting on the wooden-slat floors of her home, repaired in time for the start of a new cyclone season. Last year, Cyclone Winston ripped off half her roof and tore her walls away. But after the cyclone came a withering drought, and after the drought, another storm that sent flood waters lapping up to the edge of her front door — and submerged her neighbours’ homes so that the entire village was a sea with only rooftops poking above the water. “From that we can know that the weather is changing,” she said. “It’s true. Climate change is happening.” Leaders from small island nations like Fiji will be bringing the urgency of this message to Bonn and COP23, this year’s iteration of the annual UN-led climate change summit. With Fiji presiding over the meetings, the issues confronting small island nations will be at the forefront of the agenda, underscoring the link between climate change and the natural disasters that impact people like Raqiyawa. But this year’s summit arrives amid foreboding trends: Concentrations of climate change-fuelling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged to record levels last year, while a UN analysis found current commitments made by countries under the Paris Agreement will fall short of goals to limit global temperature rise — only a year after the climate accord came into force. Irwin Loy/IRIN Salome Raqiyawa’s village in Fiji was hit by cyclones, drought, and floods during 2016. This year, another lengthy drought means she has to fetch water from a nearby river, which overflowed and submerged most of her village only a few months before. Shifting the focus As president of this year’s climate summit, Fiji will put a spotlight on the impacts of natural disasters on smaller island nations, which have fewer resources and high exposure to hazards. The small island developing states, or SIDS, including nations and territories dotted throughout the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the African coast, are some of the world’s most vulnerable to the impact of natural disasters. Devastating storms, unusually heavy rainfall, and extensive and lingering drought have overwhelmed smaller island nations in recent months — often in quick succession.   frameborder="1" height="450" scrolling="yes" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/GqvOW/1/" width="100%"> Countries like Fiji and Haiti saw multiple disasters that knocked back recovery just as communities were picking up the pieces after previous setbacks. The impacts of such disasters are jarringly unequal. In an analysis of climate-linked displacement between 2008 and 2016, Oxfam estimated that extreme weather disasters were five times more likely to displace people in poorer countries as people in higher-income nations.   frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/aC8k2/2/" width="100%"> Recent research on risk also underscores this inequality. A risk assessment by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimated that 13.9 million people each year could be displaced by sudden-onset disasters — the majority through floods and tropical cyclones. Populous countries like India, China and Bangladesh top the list. When factoring in relative population sizes, however, a different picture emerges. Each country or territory with the highest per capita displacement risk is a small island developing state, either in the Caribbean or the Pacific. The Bahamas, at the top of the list, can expect an average of 5.9 p[...]



Oil-rich yet on edge in Turkana

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 16:49:58 +0000

Rebecca Ekale doesn’t believe anything good can come from the black gold bonanza that will bring untold riches to arid Turkana, the poorest county in Kenya. “I have no interest in oil,” the mother of six told IRIN outside her brick-and-thatch home in the village of Lomokamar. Like many pastoralist herders, Ekale has been hit hard by a fierce and prolonged drought: the bones of 16 goats lie on the ground nearby. But life here is hard at the best of times. Around 90 percent of the county’s 1.3 million inhabitants live below the poverty line and some 80 percent have never attended school. Chronic marginalisation has left Turkana with a dearth of basic services, and there are few opportunities in the private sector for making a living outside the precarious realm of pastoralism. Yet unimaginable wealth lies beneath the county’s soil: an estimated 750 million recoverable barrels of oil. In early 2021, construction is set to begin on an 820-kilometre, $2.1 billion pipeline from Turkana to the Kenyan coast. Within a few years, this is expected to start generating billions of dollars annually for the Kenyan state, with at least five percent (there is an almighty row over the figure) earmarked for local communities and 20 percent going to the county government – an entity set up in a landmark devolutionary constitution adopted in 2010. Opinion is divided between those who think the oil boom will provide Turkana with an economic lifeline and those who fear production will exacerbate existing conflicts driven by competition over scarce pasture and water resources. “Nothing but a curse” Ekale already seems to have made her mind up. “It has brought us nothing but a curse,” she said, as a pungent smell wafted through her homestead. Ekale said the stench came from a tailings dump just two kilometres away. “It’s killing our goats and I have not seen the national or county government coming to our rescue,” she complained. Other local residents told IRIN that when it rains, chemicals enter water sources and make their animals sick. Tullow Oil, the British firm that discovered Turkana’s oil in 2012, operates (in some blocs in partnership with Africa Oil) across 48,000 square kilometres of Kenya leased from various county governments. Exploration and appraisal is taking place in several dozen sites located within community-owned land in Turkana. One of these sites lies 14 kilometres from Ekale’s home. Tullow denies releasing toxic waste, but told IRIN it temporarily stores mud residue from drill sites in a manner approved by the National Environmental Management Authority, and that it conducts environmental and social impact assessments before starting any new projects. Restricted mobility Aside from the disputed issue of waste, a common complaint about the oil installations is that they get in the way. “Our animals have no access to pasture,” explained Ekale. To keep their millions of animals healthy, Turkana’s pastoralists have to be able to herd them across long distances to reach water and, since they are picky eaters, the right kind and sufficient quantity of grass. Oil is just one of many barriers to this “strategic mobility”. Sites where oil is already being extracted – in the South Lokichar Basin – have been fenced off (Tullow didn’t specify exactly how much land is involved). According to Thomas Nyapid, a livestock herder who also runs a peacebuilding and sustainability programme in Lodwar, the county capital, Tullow has failed to fully take into account local dynamics. For instance, he said, South Lokichar Basin has long been used as a dry-season grazing reserve. Sophia Mbugua/IRIN Rebecca Ekale, who lost 16 goats to drought, doubts oil will make her life easier Ahead of the oil operations, “no one took an interest in telling us what was happening, or understanding how we used the land and how it would a[...]