afrol News, 17 November - 81-year-old Captain Juma Njunge Macharia has lived from what the earth produces all his life. But he does not understand his lands anymore. The vegetation has changed, the rains have changed, the heat has changed and the cold has changed. One thing he understands, though, and that is what scientists are telling about a changing climate.
"When I was young the rainy season in the Kinangop area was known to start in mid-April, but it has shifted to June when it used to end. The rainfall pattern has become unpredictable and unreliable," Captain Juma explained when happily volunteering as a "climate witness" for the environmentalist group WWF.
His narrations are not just typical complaints from an old man remembering the "good old days". Mr Juma - who served as a captain in the Mau Mau movement that fought for Kenya's independence - does not complain about modern life; he is still an herbal medicine man growing the herbs, shrubs and trees he needs for his treatment of villagers in his own yard.
Indeed, his tale is accurate. Scientists say exactly the same. While overall precipitation in Kenya has increased over the last decades, rains have become around 20 percent more unpredictable, making agricultural planning almost impossible.
"I have also noticed changes in temperature," says the old man of honour. "Although daytime temperatures seem to have gone up, the number of cold nights appears to have increased as well, occurring in different months. Frost used to come in June and September and we could hardly grow any maize because the frost would destroy it. However, nowadays with good rainfall, we are able to grow our maize and realise a harvest as the effects of frost are not as severe."
Again, the freedom fighter is sharp in his observations. Scientific climate analyses show that overall temperatures in Kenya have risen by 1.3°C. Other climate variables, such as cold periods and rainfall have become far more unpredictable. Captain Juma's memory seems like a statistical yearbook.
But the old man sees far more than climatologists are able to make statistics on. He sees the long-term public health and food security impacts of the changing climate clearly - comparing it to times when no official numbers and statistics existed.
"The type of cold has changed as well," he says. "The month of July used to be cold and misty. I remember this quite clearly, because when I started my practice as a herbal doctor in the 1960s, I hardly saw patients that had contracted pneumonia. However, nowadays the cold is much drier. I have noticed this change because of the increasing number of children suffering from pneumonia who are coming to see me."
Regarding agriculture, Captain Juma has experienced decades of changing climate and deforestation, which have made him fear the future for his grandchildren. "It has become more challenging to plan any agricultural activities" due to the more unpredictable rainfalls and temperatures. Readers of Kenyan food security predictions - always talking about early or late rains - will recognise the old man's description.
Concerned about the "logging of indigenous trees in the forests" close to his village of Murungaru and the "burning of fossil fuels" around the world, Captain Juma expresses is hope that Kenyan and world leaders will take the environment more seriously so that future generations still will find it worthwhile to work the soil in the Kenyan countryside.
And he turns out to be a fan of Kenya's first an only Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who promotes the cause of reforestation. "I hope that the Kenyan government will help by stopping logging and re-growing the forests which have been cleared in the last decades," the 81-year-old pleads.
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