Thursday, August 27, 2009

Climate Change and Religion in Kyuso

By john Njue
It is said that there has been gradual change in the rainfall patterns since 1997 after the El-nino rain. The residents say that there has been unpredictability and uncertainty of the climate. Research has found that climate change has got a lot of effects/impacts and people are trying their level best to adapt to these changes.

Literally there are some factors that shouldn’t have been compared whatsoever. Climate change and religion is one of the factors. Climate change seems to be very different from the latter .Climate change is affecting religion as an adaptation strategy. One of these is an atmospheric and another one is a social factor.

Kyuso District is one of the Districts in Eastern Province of Kenya, where drought is one of the main problems affecting the farming process. The District borders Kitui district to the south, Mwingi district to the west, Mbeere and Tharaka to the north and Tana River district to the East. The District covers an area of approximately 4814.9 kilometer square

According to the 1999 population census data, the district has a population of about 303,828 persons. The district was said to have a population density of 30 persons per km square in 1999. People from this area live away from town and therefore the population density of Kyuso market is expected to be lower.

Apart from the district having less population there has been an emergence of numerous churches. In Kyuso market which is one (1) kilometer in diameter there are over 10 churches. The interior of the district such as Twimyua, Mataka, Nguni, Kamuwongo, Mumoni, Katse, Tseikuru and Kimanago has got other churches and branches of churches found in the market. The people who live in the market are people from other areas of the country. These people are working in Government ministries, Parastatals, Non-governmental organizations and Community Based Organizations. The churches found here are classified as Protestants, catholic, Pentecostal and evangelical churches. Some of these institutions are weak because of lack of funding

In the time of our grandfathers, family members used to be very busy in their farms, hunting, Weaving, modeling and grazing. Due to climate change there has been extensive drought in Kyuso, lack of pasture and wild animals have migrated due to destruction of their habitat .The farm animals also reduced in numbers due to killing and slaughtering by residents for meat in their homes. Due to reduction of these activities the people have become idle.

As an adaptation to climate change effects, Kyuso residents have thought if they stay near their God everything will be okay. Most of the people from this area have lost hope and therefore have no otherwise but to join churches; it’s their assumption that when the almighty lord will return, they should be found holy. The community believes that the extensive drought is an indication that the end of the world is near.

Due to inadequate rainfall, levels of poverty in Kyuso have gone high because most of the residents are farmers and their farming activities have been affected. As a result, people have come up with different income generating activities as an adaptation to climate change. Many people have started churches not as social/religious sites but income generating sites. Pastors/priests and fathers are doing their level best to market their churches so as to attract more ‘customers’. Mediums like brochures, fliers, and door to door initiatives are used. The idea behind this is the offertory that they will receive. The more the number of church followers, the more the offertory they give which in most instances is usually money.

However much the people are starting churches as a coping strategy, there has been a big challenge of inadequate infrastructure in the area. Kyuso district has an undeveloped road network and hence making traveling or moving of goods and services from one place to another difficult. The main road serving Kyuso is Mwingi-Tsiekuru road which is an all weather road with a lot of corrugation. The other road networks are worse than this .The church might be a good idea after all but there might be inaccessibility due to poor infrastructure.

Due to increase in temperature as a result of climate change, shelters are usually very hot. The average day temperature in Kyuso ranges from 230C- 42OC. Due to extreme temperatures in churches during the day, worship and prayer meeting are organized at night. The meetings start at 6.30pm and end at 2.00am and sometimes go on until the following day. This is an adaptation mechanism to cope with extreme temperature.

Open air fellowship locally known as “kesha” have become very common in this area. In the evenings, the congregation gathers in an open place usually along the road for prayer/worship .Men, women, youth and children inclusive worship through out the night in the open. This open air meetings have brought about the issues of prostitution. Despite the fact that the night is the best time for these activities, some men, women and children have taken an advantage of these opportunities for practicing prostitution for cash. As a result of climate change there has been a reduction in farm/livestock productivity and therefore prostitution is mistaken for an income generating activity here.

Climate change has brought about a lot of effects. These effects and impacts are the cause of the daily problems we experience. Climate change is already here with us, we are experiencing the effects and people should encourage efficient consumption of energy as an option to limit the emission of carbon in the air.

In the issue of emergence of churches; the government should provide a regulatory framework to people starting new churches and denominations. Conditions should be put in place to avoid business in churches although this is an adaptation strategy among the people of Kyuso. People should develop better adaptation strategies .Ability to shape or respond to the change is the best way, where people develop positive ways of living.

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