By Amos Burudi Wemanya
Senior Renewable Energy Advisor at Power Shift Africa
Climate change is no longer a story of when or how - the crisis is with us now, and every community and sector of the economy is feeling the devastating impacts of the climate crisis.
Despite decades of calls to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and transition to clean energy sources, such as solar and wind, countries continue to use coal, oil and gas to fuel their economies. Not only does this mean that carbon emissions have been increasing at an alarming rate, but our food system has become very intertwined with the fossil fuel system. This means that not only is the security of our food systems extremely vulnerable to weather events caused by the burning of fossil fuels, but it is also deeply impacted by the skyrocketing costs of fossil fuels like oil and gas.
This has real and terrifying consequences. Across East Africa, the World Food Programme says millions of people across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are in urgent need of food assistance. Droughts caused by climate change, along with rising food prices due to a fossil fuel-reliant energy system have forced more and more people to become dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs for survival.
Recognition that now is the time to act
Systemic change must take place if we are to address the climate crisis. Changes can be made so not only do we adapt, but eventually create a brighter future for our country and planet. Kenya is a country in prime position to do this.
Kenyan President Dr. William Ruto recognized this challenge and opportunity in a recent article in The Guardian, where he said:
“We have immense potential for renewable energy, and this abundance of wind and solar energy can power the development of Africa… and embrace the benefits of clean power”.
With COP27, in Egypt, less than a month away, the hope is that his rallying cry to other world leaders will be heard. “At this meeting, we must move decisively from talking to on-the-ground action that benefits every African”.
But what does this on the ground action actually look like?
Action must be taken to rapidly roll out renewable energy systems, powered by solar, hydro and wind. We must also ensure that every citizen has access to it. Energy access is most needed in remote, rural areas and among poverty-stricken communities. They are some of those most threatened by climate change and in greatest need of adaptation support.
This clean energy revolution can drive climate change adaptation and strengthen food security by reinforcing home grown agriculture through improved irrigation, cold storage and by deploying fuel-efficient technologies across food systems.
This includes equipment that reduces post-harvest losses and preserves food quality, such as cooling technologies, solar dryers and milling and oil processing equipment. Solar-powered irrigation has the potential to drip-irrigate crops and reduce resource use in agricultural production for smallholder farmers.
With estimates that more than 40% of food perishes before it reaches the consumer solar-powered cold storage rooms can provide an effective and inclusive solution in off-grid, marginalised areas through shared ownership, lease or ‘pay-per-use’ business models.
For a typical farm in Kenya, the cost of irrigating one acre for five years using a solar pump is estimated at USD 3,000 – compared to USD 6,000 when using an equivalent diesel pump. For high-value crops, the upfront cost of a solar water pump is recovered in 12–18 months through increased yields.
It is clear that locally generated renewable energy – using technologies such solar home systems, biogas digesters and solar minigrids – brings these benefits cheaper, faster, and to more people, than new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Now is the time to act
The government has committed to move towards 100% clean energy by 2030. This ambition can improve productivity and sustainable agricultural systems.
In the run up to COP27, the Power Up coalition which we are part of is calling on African countries to seek greater global funding for affordable green energy, while at the same time putting in place the plans and policies needed to funnel investment into scalable climate solutions on the ground.
There is a need to improve the investment environment and create a pipeline of bankable projects in renewables to attract the outside investment necessary to achieve universal energy access and support economic development.
At Cop27 in Egypt, African leaders must demand that developed nations provided the finance for a clean energy transition as the cornerstone of the continent’s climate adaptation efforts.
Like President Ruto said, we are at a crossroads, the outcome of COP27 will determine which pathway we take.
“We are at a crossroads in history: Africa can and must be a leader in clean energy”.