Mzee who grew up before climate change crisis fears for posterity

Okumu Jarongo, 95, started seeing abnormal weather in the 1970s

In Summary

• The Homa Bay resident paints a grim picture of life before and after climate change 

• Kenya is pushing industrial nations to support developing countries that bear the brunt

Mzee Okumu Jarongo speaks to the Star in Kanyamwa Kochieng village, Ndhiwa constituency, Homa Bay county
Mzee Okumu Jarongo speaks to the Star in Kanyamwa Kochieng village, Ndhiwa constituency, Homa Bay county

Nowadays, Mzee Okumu Jarongo does not see grass full of dew at his home in Homa Bay. Rainfall patterns have become unpredictable compared to yesteryears.

The 95-year-old man, who lives in Kanyamwa Kochieng village, Ndhiwa constituency, says thick clouds used to gather on hilly places. They are rarely seen anymore, however, as regular mists and fogs do not get suspended above the earth like they used to.

Onshore winds, which brought plenty of rains, can no longer be relied on.

Jarongo started seeing these abnormal weather changes in the 1970s. He says the trend has worsened with time.

It has disrupted the normal rainfall patterns, which in turn hurts agricultural practices, the senior citizen says.

As a result, the weather veers from prolonged droughts to heavy rains that cause flooding.

“The world is too strange. It isn’t the way it was when I was growing up. The unfavourable weather is causing perennial famine and destruction of crops and surroundings,” Jarongo says.

Due to this phenomenon, Jarongo says, a number of indigenous plants that used to provide shades, prevent soil erosion and have medicinal value, are getting depleted.

The native plants reducing in number include croton megalorcapus, fig tree and waterpear. Others are fountain tree, elephant grass and African olive.

Their shortage is making residents struggle to get the herbal medicine used to treat certain diseases, such as flu, stomachache and some sexually transmitted diseases.

“I see the future generation getting disturbed by diseases which could be traditionally treated. The traditional plants are mostly the source of medicines,” he adds.


Jarongo says rivers such as Kuja, Migori, Riana and Sondu Miriu are having fluctuating water levels and volumes. The rivers pour their waters into Lake Victoria.

Many of these rivers get flooded during rains and dry up as soon as drought begins.

Jarongo wonders how the situation will be in 20-30 years time.

Despite the erratic weather, the population has continually increased while the food supply is reducing. Jarongo links the destruction of plants to bad farming practices, new human settlements and charcoal burning.

University of Nairobi don Clifford Omondi agrees with Jarongo, saying recent land-use practices have caused a greater shift in the average weather conditions.

He says the phenomenon of unpredictable weather has occurred as a result of climate change, which is associated with environmental degradation.

Since 1970, the sea level has been rising by 0.02mm annually due to climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in August says there is a steady emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) gases into the atmosphere.

The report says the concentration of the gases has accumulated since 1970 and resulted in a rise in global surface temperatures.

Omondi, a member of the Environment Institute of Kenya (EIK), says human activities have contributed so much to climate change.

“The imbalance in precipitation and frequent irregular droughts being witnessed are part of the negative effects of climate change,” he says.

The world is too strange. It isn’t the way it was when I was growing up. The unfavourable weather is causing perennial famine and destruction of crops and surroundings
Mzee Okumu Jarongo


In the IPCC report, scientists believe that it is warming everywhere and across the globe. They say warming is rapid and it is reversing the long-term cooling trends that have been there previously.

The report indicates that over the next 20 years, emission of greenhouse gases will continue and further lead to surface warming.

Omondi said more volcanic eruptions are likely to occur as warming persists.

In May, for instance, two volcanic eruptions happened at Mt Nyiragongo in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The unprecedented precipitation and droughts are signs of the impact of climate change.

“People should be on high alert because even the volcanoes long considered dormant are likely to erupt in future due to the warming effects,” Omondi says.

The climatologist says three types of droughts have been caused by global warming. They are meteorological, agricultural and ecological and hydrological droughts.

The meteorological is associated with deficits in snow, morning dews, mists and fogs. The drought occurs as a result of the depletion of plant cover.

The agricultural and ecological drought is linked to an abnormal shortage of moisture in the soil. There is a shortage in precipitation and excess evaporation. The situation affects crop production due to ecosystem fluctuation in general.

The hydrological drought is a scenario where the water cycle is interfered with, hence a deficit in rains formation. The situation contributes to a lack of water in the hydrological system.

“Many streams, lakes and seas experience these droughts. This is due to the general intermittent rainfall and excess evaporation,” Omondi says.

Some of the noticeable impacts of climate change are on land (soil), sky (atmosphere) and lake (water).

There is dry land and lose soil, land cracks, depleted vegetation (shrubs) and soil erosion, which occur due to a lack of soil cover.

In the lake are a frequent rise in waters, acidification of the water and shortage of aquatic life.

In the atmosphere, there is a clear sky or the absence of cumulonimbus clouds and the presence of offshore winds (dry winds).

In Kenya, a recent impact of climate change was seen in early 2020, when there were excessive rains (abnormal precipitation).

The high rains caused a backflow of lakes including Victoria, Baringo, Nakuru and Naivasha. Several rivers were flooded as more than 200,000 people got displaced across the country.

Omondi says climate change, due to human influence, has led to siltation, acidification and reduction of aquatic life of the water bodies. He cites Lake Victoria.

“The lake has become shallow (40m deep) due to soil deposits, water hyacinth and dwindling fish population, which are all an indication that the water has increasingly become acidic,” he says.


The IPCC has directed each of its member states and their environment agencies, scientists and organisations championing for a better environment to speedily address and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Kenya as a member state country has already joined hands with other developing countries to push industrial nations to fulfil their treaty of mitigating climate change.

In the agreement, developed nations, which produce 85 per cent of emissions that cause global warming, are expected to support developing countries that suffer from the effects of greenhouse gases.

Evaluation will be done during the 26th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow, Scotland.

Kenya will be represented by Environment CS Keriako Tobiko.

Climatologist Omondi calls for a serious campaign and awareness creation at the grassroots level to address climate change issues.

He wants Kenyans to avoid poor farming practices, be keen on waste management and limit all activities that contribute to global warming. 

Omondi wants the Kenyan government to coordinate with county governments to formulate and adopt policies on how to curb the effects of climate change.

“The effects of climate change are real and are here with us. Let’s take IPCC report seriously and implement its recommendations,” he says.

Edited by T Jalio

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