A Journey to Achieving Sustainable Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Homa Bay County

homa bay

The rising water levels of Lake Victoria, a phenomenon last observed in the 1960s, made a dramatic return in 2021 and repeated in 2023 just two years later, marking a significant and concerning environmental shift. This resurgence has deeply affected the communities surrounding Africa's largest lake, subjecting them to a series of relentless challenges linked to climate change.

As the water levels rise, they flood shoreline communities, leaving many homes submerged and families displaced. The local communities find themselves in an ongoing battle against the encroaching lake. Fields where crops once grew sink underwater, disrupting local agriculture and food supply chains. This flooding not only destroys immediate harvests but also alters the landscape,

making future farming uncertain. The persistent damp conditions become a fertile breeding ground for pests and crop diseases, compounding the struggle for food security with each passing season.

The rise in lake levels has also exacerbated the spread of waterborne diseases among the population. Stagnant pools of floodwater become breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses, leading to outbreaks of diseases like cholera and typhoid. These health crises strain the already limited local healthcare facilities and resources, complicating the efforts to provide necessary medical care and prevent further spread.

Economically, the community faces dire consequences. The destruction of infrastructure where roads are washed away and bridges are damaged prevents both daily travel and the critical flow of goods for commerce. Local markets find it difficult to operate normally and the economic ripple effects are felt widely, deepening the financial strain on a population already struggling with loss and displacement.

Ecologically, the high waters disrupt the delicate balance of Lake Victoria's ecosystem. Changes in water levels shift fish populations, which are essential not only to the diet of the local communities but also to their economies.

Homa Bay County, situated along the southeastern shore of Lake Victoria in Kenya, is home to approximately 1,131,950 people spread across an area of 3,154.7 kilometers squared. The County's location next to the lake plays a central role in shaping the lives and livelihoods of its residents, many of whom rely heavily on the lake for their daily sustenance.

Lake Victoria's abundant and diverse fish species make fishing a vital source of income and nourishment for the people of Homa Bay County. Fishermen are active on the lake every day, catching fish to supply local markets and trade with other parts of Kenya. The lake also serves as a vital transportation route for the County, linking the mainland with several major islands such as Mfangano, Rusinga and Takawiri. Boats transport people and goods back and forth, promoting trade and communication throughout the region. This transportation network is crucial for the economic prosperity of Homa Bay County, enabling the movement of agricultural produce, fish and other goods to markets and beyond.

Farming plays a crucial role in the lives of Homa Bay residents who grow crops like maize, beans and sweet potatoes. The region faces challenges due to its dependence on agriculture reliant on rainfall which has become unpredictable due to changing climate patterns. This uncertainty, combined with

fluctuating water levels in the lake and frequent flooding, often makes it difficult for farmers to sustain consistent crop yields.

To tackle the challenges of climate change, Homa Bay County Government has implemented a legislative strategy to manage environmental issues. This approach includes passing a County Climate Change Act and adopting relevant policies, as well as establishing committees at both County and ward levels to address climate change at a local level. These committees collaborate with communities to pinpoint specific needs and create customized solutions.

The establishment of a Homa Bay Climate Change Unit at the County level has been a central aspect of Homa Bay County’s efforts to address climate change. Within this unit is the Homa Bay Climate Resilience &Innovation Hub which oversees and coordinates climate-related activities throughout the region. One of the hub’s key initiatives is the management of a call center designed to provide real-time support to residents facing climate change emergencies.

This call center, established with funding from the World Bank’s Financing Locally Led Climate Action (FLLoCA) project, connects various County departments to respond effectively to different types of disasters. For instance, if there is a locust invasion, the Department of Agriculture is notified to take necessary action. In the event of a fire, residents can call 0800000870, a toll-free number to trigger immediate emergency response. This streamlined approach ensures a swift and organized response to crises, offering residents timely assistance and mitigating the impact of disasters.

By providing a direct line of communication, the call center has significantly reduced panic among County residents. People report emerging issues, such as rising lake levels or impending floods to the County, which then activates relocation strategies to protect residents and their property. This proactive communication model fosters a sense of security and resilience among the population, as they know help is just a phone call away.

The County has recruited and trained specialized officers tasked with connecting emergency situations to the appropriate departments through the call center. These officers act as liaisons, ensuring a seamless flow of information and coordination between residents in need and the relevant county services.

Additionally, the County government focuses on educating locals about the impacts of climate change and strategies for resilience. By organizing awareness campaigns and workshops, County officials aim to equip residents with knowledge on sustainable practices and preparedness measures. This outreach helps strengthen the community's ability to adapt and respond effectively to climate challenges.


Relevant County:
Date of Publication:
10 June, 2024

Nzei Mwende

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