Hard Talk - Climate Talk
Edwin Ruto is completing a Masters in Climate Change Adaptation from the University Nairobi, School of Physical Sciences. Mr. Ruto’s research focuses on assessing potential impact of climate change and variability on honey bees and honey bee fodder plants by comparing dry and wet seasons in Sagalla, Taita County, Kenya. He has been working with the Elephants and Bees Project since 2016 growing his interest in conservation and giving back to the communities of Kenya.
How did you first become interested in studying the impact/effects of climate change?
My experiences since childhood, together with my educational background, largely contributed to my decision to study and research climate change. The violence that exists in the human heart is also a manifest in symptoms of illness that we see in the earth, the air and in living things. There's one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent threat of a changing climate. Climate change is a simple concept, it’s global and not confined within our local, national or regional boundaries. I thought it will be important to study and understand more about climate change to then contribute in making the world a better place.
What impact do you think your research has or will have on the community of Sagalla?
My research is on assessing the potential impact of climate variability on honey bee fodder plants. Honey bee colonies are highly dependent upon the availability of floral resources from which they get the nutrients (notably pollen and nectar) necessary to their development and survival. However, foraging areas are currently affected by climate change, predators and other human activities such as intensification of agriculture and landscape alteration. Bees are therefore confronted to disparities in time and space of floral resource abundance, type and diversity. Especially during dry season with insufficient rainfall and extreme temperatures, which might provide inadequate nutrition and endanger colonies.
My study in Sagalla, explores how biodiversity might enhance and stabilize bees during challenging dry season. High biodiversity levels can ensure plant–honey bee pollinator phonological synchrony and thus pollination function. The documentation of the honey bee fodder plants diversity aims at sensitizing the community to conserve the plant resources to assist in maintaining synchrony at the community level. The study aims to inform beekeepers and policy makers on the extent to which beekeeping is and can be used to contribute and enhance ecosystems and livelihood change of farmer’s household.
Based on the findings of your study, what changes do you wish to see happen in the community of Sagalla?
Two changes that I wish to see in the community: adaptation to the current climate condition and mitigation against future climate change. By taking a comprehensive community and ecosystem approach it may be possible to build greater resilience in bees, plants, and floral diversity and to identify broader options for bee keeping through deliberate management of bees’ number, biodiversity and their ecosystem services.
Research needs to be done at local and community levels to understand current climate condition and potential livelihood options in different, specific areas. For example beekeeping, potential crop varieties, animal and poultry breeds etc. and also access to good and direct market of this potential products. This way, the farmers can be able to maximize on the production potential of their land, sell their products at good price and be able to afford other things they need.
What are your friends and family’s perspectives on climate change?
My family, and most of my friends, are supportive and have experienced the impact of climate change. However our vulnerability and level of exposure to impacts of climate change is different for different people in different places for many reasons. I therefore understand when there are some who still live in denial about climate change, but with time and education they will understand. The most important thing about global warming is it's all of our responsibility to leave this planet in better shape for the future generations than we found it.
How is Kenya preparing for a future that is predicted to have more variability in climate?
Kenya has in recent years had its share of climate-related impacts that is prolonged droughts, frost in some of the productive agricultural areas, extreme flooding, receding lake levels, drying of rivers and other wetlands, among others leading to large economic losses and adversely impacting food security. Many of these extreme climate events have led to displacement of communities, and migration of pastoralists into and out of the country especially in the northern Kenya resulting in conflicts over natural resources such as water and grazing area. Slow-onset events associated with climate change also lead to competition over scarce resources resulting in human-wildlife conflicts. Other climate change impacts include widespread disease epidemics, sea-level rise, and depletion of glaciers on Mount Kenya.
The Constitution of Kenya (2010) is an important environmental protection tool and environmental provisions are included in several chapters. This constitution provides ground for the formulation of adaptation and mitigation legislation, policies and strategies by guaranteeing the right to a clean and healthy environment under the Bill of Rights. Vision 2030, the national development blue print captures flagship programmes and projects with aspects of adaptation and mitigation such clean energy (i.e. solar, wind and geothermal) afforestation and reforestation programmes among other things. The mandate of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resource Management is to monitor, protect, conserve and manage the environment and natural resources through sustainable exploitation for socio-economic development aimed at eradication of poverty, improving living standards and ensuring that a clean environment is sustained now and in the future.
What has been the most fun aspect of your project thus far?
I should point out that, at first, some difficulty was experienced in observing the phenomena predicted by the theory that temperature, rainfall, honey bee fodder plant biodiversity, occupation of the beehives and honey production have a significant relationship. I learned that research and discovery is a matter of patience and concentration. You can go to a place, work with people, and really enjoy and feel it in your heart. This is what I am feeling during/after my field study working with such wonderful people at Elephant and Bees project and the Sagalla community at large. It's a beautiful feeling.