Vegetable vendors in nairobi are struggling to keep their businesses running due to high costs. / Photo TRT Afrika 

By Dayo Yussuf

At dawn each day, Nuria joins the beeline of vendors heading to the marikiti, or local market, where she buys vegetables in bulk and later sells these for a small profit to customers near her home.

She has been doing this for the past seven years, but it's becoming increasingly difficult for her to put food on the table with her earnings.

"I have raised my children with the money I earn. It used to be enough," the Kenyan woman tells TRT Afrika. "But everything is more expensive now, and I fear being forced to look for something else to do. Everything is expensive.''

On many occasions, Nuria visits the market and comes back empty-handed. Either the prices are too high for her to expect any margin, or she can't find the vegetables her neighbourhood customers prefer.

"I used to buy a small sack of onions for 1,200 shillings (US $9), which now costs 2,800 shillings (US $19)," she says. "If I buy at that price, for how much will I sell the stuff to my customers?"

Nuria is among millions of people in the continent – and billions across the world – suffering the ravages of climate change that include frequent drought and resultant crop failure.

The effect of drought is felt by the locals as food is scarce and prices are unbearable / Photo : TRT Afrika 

Across Africa, farmers say they are not harvesting as much as they used to. Sometimes, crop failure lasts through the season, triggering food scarcity and high prices.

"Climate change is being discussed at the highest levels by government leaders, international organisations and activists. Essentially, this is something that directly affects consumers in the rural belt," says Ellen Otaru, an environmental expert based in Tanzania.

"Overall, everyone is affected — from the farmer to the fisherman, the beekeeper to anyone who depends on natural resources for survival."

Shock and awe

As drought strikes parts of Africa, leaving acres of once-verdant crop fields barren, other parts of the world battle devastating floods that wash away standing crops and displace thousands from their homes.

If climate change were to have a face, destruction would be an apt frame.

Big factories emissions and greenhouse gases have devastating effect on the environment./ Photo Reuters 

After yet another season of hand-wringing over fluctuating weather patterns in most parts of the world, it's all hands on the deck now as global forces unite to fight a looming calamity of shocking proportions.

The United Nations has already warned of catastrophic consequences and called for the issue to be given the highest priority.

In her own small cluster, far-removed from the global noise about climate change, Nuria cannot comprehend why she is now unable to buy vegetables at prices that offer her some margin of comfort. She often complains about "greedy farmers" hiking prices on a whim.

Over the past week, the Kenyan capital of Nairobi had been agog about African leaders and key international figures as well as climate campaigners coming together to discuss the effects of climate change and find possible solutions to the challenges posed by it.

Nuria says she came to know of Nairobi hosting the August 4-6 Africa Climate Summit, the continent's first, through the evening news, but couldn't understand how that had any connection with her life.

That's where environmental activists like Otaru come in.

"What we take for granted collectively contributes to global problems," she says. "It needs to be reinforced through public awareness that water isn't produced in factories. When you waste water at home, it eats into our reserves. Now, if there is no rain, how do we replenish that? If you keep lights on for no reason all day, it contributes to warming."

Industrial emissions and greenhouse gases also have a devastating effect on the environment. "We don't seem to realise that all of us are contributing in our own way to pollution. Maybe we should also contribute in our own way to saving the planet," says Otaru.

Trickle down effect

Major global topics like climate change, global warming and the switch to green energy need not be discussed behind closed doors. Experts say the more inclusive these talks are, the sooner workable solutions can be found.

Experts call on inclusivity in combating climate change for more urgent solutions / Photo : AP

'"If a lay person in the village does not understand climate change, and how it will impact her life, she won't be able to adjust her way of life accordingly," explains Otaru. "It is good that a lot of conversations now are calling for women's participation."

Activists say more women should get involved in the campaign to tackle climate change.

"When a woman understands climate change, it gives her an insight into why her life isn't functioning properly. If a family cannot sustain its livelihood, especially one that depends on farming, and if there is no money to fulfil basic necessities, there surely won't be peace in that home," says Otaru.

She also attributes some common problems like depression directly to lack of resources or drop in income directly or indirectly caused by climate change.

"Sometimes, families are forced to split due to economic pressures. The father who used to work on his farm with his family decides to move to the city to look for alternative income. This, in turn, affects the children," she tells TRT Afrika.

Each baby step counts

According to experts, the search for solutions doesn't always have to be at the government level. Every little effort counts, especially when the youngest minds are involved.

It is time to include the young minds in climate change conversations to create awareness and prepare them for the inevitable effects in future experts say / Photo : Reuters 

"Climate change is a problem for all. It is important for everyone to understand it and be involved in solving this as early as at kindergarten age," says Otaru. "Most importantly, he or she needs to learn to adjust to live according to what's happening around the person, including climate change."

The World Bank states that Africa will account for more than 40 per cent of the young population of low and middle-income countries by 2050. "Strong strategies are needed to ensure basic needs, including food. In this sense, there is a need to organise things to ensure food systems continue to be stable," it says.

In her village, Nuria is wrapping up her day with the disconcerting feeling of not earning enough to cover her family's expenses.

"These days, people aren't even buying things like tomatoes. I am being forced to rethink what to sell," she rues. "Everything is too expensive."

In Nairobi, where the Africa Climate Summit closed on August 6, radio and television are awash with news of the pledges made by the delegates and the action plans that were firmed up for the future.

Nuria watches the news with her family to keep up with what's happening, but it may take a lot of effort to make people like her understand why they too need to become foot soldiers in the battle to save the planet.

TRT Afrika