The Arctic Sea ice is melting fast; everyone should be scared!

The Arctic Ocean, the world’s smallest, shallowest yet most crucial ocean faces the severe impacts of climate change. Today, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet causing the arctic sea ice to melt at unprecedented rates. Studies show that the arctic sea ice is melting at a rate of 14,000 tonnes per second!. 

Does this mean anything for the panet? 

Photo © Jamie Sharp

The Arctic Ocean plays a critical role in the planet’s entire ecosystem. For millennia, the Arctic Ocean has been covered by ice that has helped keep our planet cool by regulating the global weather patterns. In simple terms, it’s the planet’s air conditioning system. 

As more arctic sea ice melts, the planet’s average albedo decreases meaning more sun rays penetrate to the earth’s surface. This increases the global temperatures  and as a result, more ice melts and destabilizes the entire global climate system consequently leading to extreme weather patterns. This in turn compromises the food and water supplies upon which all lives everywhere depend. Floods and droughts are on the rise, hitting hardest vulnerable areas in the global south. A water and hunger crisis is what we’re looking at if the planet continues heating up.

Loss of polar ice is contributing to sea level rise and this puts small island pacific nations and island cities at risk. Studies have shown that at least 275 million people live in cities that are vulnerable to rising sea levels. If we don’t act now, sea level rise will redraw the map of the world and displace billions of people globally. 

More melting of polar ice exposes the arctic ocean to increased industrial activity such as oil and gas exploration, military activity and commercial fishing using large vessels that destroy the seabed. Commercial shipping companies are now also looking for new routes in the arctic ocean and in the process breaking up ice and spilling dirty oil that not only turns the ice dark – such that it cannot reflect more sun rays – but also puts other marine life in danger. While these commercial human activities may benefit a handful of corporations economically, it poses major challenges to the environment and the collective good of humanity. 

Moreover, the arctic ecosystem is home to thousands of species that cannot be found in any other part of the world. Marine mammal species such as whales, seals and polar bears that are endemic to the arctic are adversely affected and are consequently threatened with extinction. 

A polar bear family near Baffin Island in the Canadian arctic. Photo credit: John Rollins
A polar bear family near Baffin Island in the Canadian arctic. Photo © John Rollins

Is there anything we can do? 

All is not lost! We can definitely do something to protect the arctic and by extension protect all life forms and the planet. Various conservation groups and individuals are teaming up to ensure the Arctic Ocean is protected and the polar ice doesn’t melt any further at the alarming rate at which it’s melting. What we need is a declaration of the entire Arctic Ocean as a marine Peace Park safe from all forms of human exploitation. a Canadian based all-volunteer organization has taken the initiative to come up with a campaign dubbed MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary that aims at protecting the fragile Arctic Ocean ecosystem that has for thousands of years been a peace park by its very nature. It has come up with the MAPS Treaty, which is an addendum to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that seeks to declare the entire Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic circle a Marine protected area. This treaty has been mailed to all the UN member states and comes into law when signed by 99 UN member states which represents the majority. 

What we will gain by ensuring MAPS is achieved

Once it comes into place, MAPS will safeguard the remaining sea ice from damage by human exploitation and help keep the planet cool.  It will help prevent natural disasters such as forest fires, floods and droughts. MAPS will not only compel a global shift away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, it will also unite world leaders in the commitment to value long-term collective good over short-term individual gain. It will also declare our global commitment to sustainable energies and our cessation of the use of fossil fuels by saying “no” to offshore Arctic oil and gas drilling.

This is a simple, effective, immediate and most practical solution to a rather complex and serious ecological and humanitarian crisis that befalls us. The choice lies in  our hands.


Need for a paradigm shift: Low Carbon development key towards mitigating Climate Change

Agriculture, especially livestock production, is a major source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which contribute to the greenhouse effect and climate change. However, the changing climate is having far-reaching impacts on agricultural (crop) production, which are likely to challenge food security in the future.

Africa contributes the least to climate change, yet it is bearing the brunt of climate change impacts. Climate change is one of the most complex and cross-cutting environmental problems facing not only Africa but also the world today. It is one of the most touching problems that affect every corner of the planet earth.

The situation particularly becomes more adverse in developing countries, especially in developing countries.

Kenya, being one of the sub-Saharan African countries that are most vulnerable to climate change-induced problems, has suffered from issues such as climate variability and extreme weather events and disasters. This has affected the agriculture sector leading to food insecurity. This becomes a major disaster since a large segment (81%) of the Kenyan population directly or indirectly depends on agriculture to support their livelihoods.

Turkana image
Women and children on the arid plains at the feet of the Mogila mountains in Turkana; Credit: Health and Human Rights Journal

Climate change is a topic that has in the recent past found itself at the top of the international development agenda and at the centre of the world political arena. Working with the rural communities in the Arid and semi-arid parts of Eastern Kenya in addressing various climate change dimensions and enhancing both economic and climate resilience for the last two years, I have learnt a lot in terms of mitigation and adaptation mechanisms to climate change.

Agriculture, especially livestock production, is a major source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which contribute to the greenhouse effect and climate change. However, the changing climate is having far-reaching impacts on agricultural (crop) production, which are likely to challenge food security in the future.

With a business as usual scenario, climate change is likely to contribute substantially to food insecurity in the future by increasing food prices and reducing food production. Food is likely to become more expensive as climate change mitigation efforts increase energy prices. Water required for food production may become more scarce due to increased crop water consumption and prolonged drought. Competition for land may increase as certain areas become climatically unsuitable for production forcing people to move to more productive areas which in fact are scarce.

Fundamentally, Kenya and indeed Africa faces a lot of development related problems which elicit adverse impacts on all other sectors. Whenever there is a change in climate, the impacts are clearly manifested in the agricultural sector which leads to a massive reduction in productivity. It has also brought an escalating burden to already existing environmental concerns of the country such as deforestation due to fuel needs.

RE Kenya image -THE standard
Photo Credit: The Standard

The problems of climate change can be altered to become opportunities that can benefit humanity. For instance, reducing emissions from energy usage in industries by innovating new ways that provide clean energy can bolster development.

As the Paris agreement calls for its implementation, energy consumption is increasing globally as the population keeps on shooting. This shows a better fit to integrate climate change mitigation and public policy in development to adopt clean energy in both residential and commercial areas.

Kenya, for instance, is in the process of investing in non-renewable energy sources that the rest of the world is divesting from such as coal when clearly, there are renewable energy alternatives such as solar and geothermal. The country has a huge potential in geothermal that can be leveraged on to mitigate the impacts of climate change. This calls for a paradigm shift in policies that favour sustainable development.

Therefore, there is a great need to ensure low carbon and climate resilient policy development and its action plan implementation not only in Kenya but also Africa and the world. It’s time to shift talk from corporate responsibility to corporate sustainability because we are the last generation to act to counter the impacts of climate change.


Omesa Mokaya

No silver bullet required to ensure agricultural sustainability

Promotion of more sustainable climate resilient ecological agriculture techniques is key to enhancing food security

Kenya’s agriculture sector is mainly rain-fed and highly vulnerable to climate change and variability. Agriculture and food security have been adversely impacted on by the frequency and severity of climate shocks such as drought, floods, erratic and intense rainfall, heat and cold stress.

The production of food crops, horticultural crops and industrial crops contributes to 25% of Kenya’s GDP. It also supports smallholder subsistence farmers, contributes to food security and delivers foreign exchange earnings.


While some agricultural areas are also projected to improve, negative impacts are also projected under future climate scenarios for several parts of the country.

What Kenya, and indeed Africa needs, is not a silver bullet route to achieve agricultural growth and sustainability, but a context-specific pathway that seeks to address the main challenges. Some of these challenges include climate change, food insecurity, natural resource depletion, and land degradation  

Sealing gaps such as capacity building, awareness, financing and technology in the agriculture sector will be crucial in addressing the challenges.

Some of the actions that can help improve the sector and, indeed, food security include; promoting indigenous knowledge on various crops, coordination and mainstreaming of climate change adaptation into agricultural extension, promoting new food consumption habits and increasing awareness on the impacts of climate change on the agriculture value chain.

On the medium and longer-term basis, actions such as promoting and implementing climate change resilient ecological agriculture techniques will be key in addressing the menace.Some of the techniques include; use of drought tolerant indigenous seeds, agroforestry, integrated soil fertility management, water harvesting for crop production and use of biological pest control.

This will be an important step forward towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal number two on ensuring “zero hunger” and goal number three on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all ages.


Omesa Samwel


Ecological Agriculture: The best solution to food insecurity


Agriculture is the backbone of Africa’s economy. This owes to the indisputable fact that it supports about 70% of the African population’s livelihoods.

This has led to lots of fallacious arguments with some claiming that agri-business and industrial agriculture are the only solution to food insecurity befalling the continent. However, that the only aim of agri-business is to push industrial agriculture on the African continent is not a secret anymore.


Industrial agriculture solely relies, not only on fossil fuel intensive agrochemicals such as synthetic fertilisers and pesticides but also on genetically engineered seeds. This form of agriculture poses a serious threat to the already degraded environment and food security to not only Africa but the entire world at large.

It is with this premise that Greenpeace Africa is running a major campaign dubbed Food for Life campaign. It advocates for ecological agriculture as the best known alternative to address the prolonged drought and climate change that contribute to food insecurity in the country.

It recognizes the role played by Industrial agriculture in the food crisis that the country is facing and offers ecological agriculture as a solution that not only addresses the crisis but also helps repair the broken agricultural system in the country, putting income in the hands of smallholder farmers and addressing climate change at the same time.

Ecological farming ensures production of healthy food by protecting soil, water and climate. It also promotes biodiversity and does not contaminate the environment with harmful chemical inputs.

This form of farming helps us to mitigate climate change and also adapt to its impacts  by eliminating dependence on fossil fuels, and enhancing the resilience of poor communities in the face of climatic shocks. Ecological farming also capitalizes  on the use of locally available inputs such as farmyard manure and indigenous seeds, thus keeping money in the local economy. Such farming practices include ago-forestry, ‘Push-Pull’ technology, sustainable land management, water harvesting and organic farming.


Most of the farmers who have been practising this form of farming have realized higher yields compared to those who have been practising the chemical intensive industrial agriculture. Industrial agriculture only benefits a few corporates who are only profit-oriented and less concerned with what happens to the environment.

To address the issue of food insecurity vis-a-vis protecting the environment, it is only paramount that the governments, donors and philanthropies channel their financial support towards ecological agriculture.

This way, we will produce enough to feed everybody and conserve the environment at the same time. No one has to go to bed hungry because somebody somewhere did not bother to practise agriculture in a sustainable manner.

Ecological farming is the way to go!


Omesa Samwel

Greenpeace Africa