THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON WIDOWED HOUSEHOLDS
The Goat Foundation has traversed the far reaches of Kenyan communities visiting widows far and wide. These widows have no access to grain storage facilities or bank account savings. Being dependent on the produce generated on land, it follows that these widows depend on a steady and predictable climate to raise their meager crop and livestock holdings.
A saying goes, when it rains it pours, and climate change brings with it severe and unpredictable weather phenomena. If it isn’t flooding, it is a prolonged drought that completely devastates all vegetation. Crops wither and die, and animals lack food, and simply fall down and die. Poor widows end up with no means of earning a livelihood.
Elsewhere in the world, the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires, and droughts threaten lives in these front-line communities, driving people from their homes and jeopardizing food sources and livelihoods. All these effects increase the likelihood of more conflict, hunger, and poverty.
The Goat Foundation collects data on the economic situation of widows around the country and we know that they rely on agriculture and natural resources to survive. For these widows, the effects of climate change — shifting weather, limited water sources, and increased competition for resources — are a real matter of life and death. Climate change has turned their lives into a desperate guessing game.
To earn a living, widows are forced to seek work as casual laborers, work as prostitutes or simply stay home and starve. Their children drop out of school as their mothers can no longer afford to pay school fees. Some of these children are then exploited as child workers, sold off in human trafficking, or into prostitution.
In 2010, the United Nations declared that “climate change is inextricably linked to poverty and hunger.” Seventy-five percent of the world’s poor living in rural areas count on natural resources such as forests, lakes, and oceans for their livelihoods, the organization noted. And climate change is playing havoc with those resources.
Here’s how climate change is impacting the families of widows and their children in Kenya:
- Prolonged droughts devastate food supplies and dry up water sources.
- Withered crops and starving animals destroy families’ livelihoods.
- Torrential rains, floods, and landslides flatten or sweep away their homes.
- Strife can occur within communities, as widows compete for available arable land.
- Widows’ families become separated, as their children relocate to search for work.
It is therefore a matter of paramount urgency for us who work in aid relief to advocate for the adoption of strict measures to mitigate the risk in global temperatures.
The lack of financial cushioning against emergencies is another factor that we must consider. If widows can be helped to save some income, they will be in a position to withstand the absence of direct agricultural produce.
Lastly, The Goat Foundation also emphasizes the need for diversifying means of agricultural production by practicing climate-smart agriculture so that if one practice, say crop planting, is devastated by floods, widows can rely on goats for food and as a source of income.