The Queen's Crown is Gone!

July 6, 2021

Thousands of kilometres south of the Sahara desert is a beautiful volcanic mountain with three peaks and an ice cap that’s crowned her head for thousands of years. John Ludwig Kraft, a German missionary, was the first to record her. He named her Mt Kenya. My ancestors called her Kirimara, meaning a mountain of whiteness. I was born on the northeastern slopes of this mountain, and here is where I have spent most of my life. My grandpa had me named after this mountain.

mt Kenya

My grandma, who’s a hundred years now, speaks of the mountain with reverence. She believes the gods live at its summit and that it’s the source of life. She used to pray facing the mountain. The gods will have to make a case for themselves, but there’s no doubt that life’s sourced from this mountain.

From the glaciers at the summit flows beautiful streams that join to form grand rivers like the Tana and Ewaso Nyiro. The Tana, Kenya’s largest and longest river, flows a thousand kilometres south and drains into the Indian Ocean. On its journey, it provides water to hundreds of communities that depend on it for survival, it also provides Kenya with 870 MW, hydroelectricity, 51% of Kenya’s power grid. Ewaso Nyiro stretches east from the Great Rift valley to water the sparsely populated plains that are home to several communities and various wildlife. Over 2 million people and an extensive amount of wildlife directly depend on this mountain for life.

Mt Kenya is not what it used to be , say, a hundred years ago. The mountain was initially over 23000 ft but glaciation has eroded over 5000 ft of the mountain’s crown, now only 11 small glaciers remain. The largest glacier, Lewis, has experienced about 90% shrinkage in volume since 1934! They’ll all have completely melted by 2050!

Ewaso Nyiro flows north then southeast of Mt Kenya, on its way to its mouth at Juba River in Somalia. It flows through arid and semiarid landscapes. One of these lands is the Samburu plains, home of the Samburu pastoralist community. The river has fed the community and their livestock for hundreds of years...until it hasn’t. Lately, the river has been drying up. Rapid glaciation is causing the sources of the rivers to die, and so follows the rivers. This is forcing the Samburu people to search for alternative grazing areas, which often leads to conflicts with other communities and ranch owners who live upwards closer to the mountain.

For the Samburu, there’s only so much they can do. They have done so little to influence so much. They are not responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases that have caused a rapid increase in global glacial melts. But they are the most vulnerable.

The Samburu national reserve is home to large herds of elephants, zebras, giraffes, predators like lions and cheetahs and over 450 bird species.

wildlife

It borders the buffalo springs national reserves to the south, and Ewaso Nyiro flows between them. They’re a beautiful sight. However, it’s not all paradise, the river goes dry for months and the impact on wildlife is devastating. These animals have been dying in large numbers for the past two decades and it’s just getting worse. Are we bringing all the other species down with us?

There is something mystical about Mount Kenya forest! Its pretty rivers and evergreen trees like cedar and Meru oak(and many more I can't even name) provide an utterly gorgeous scene, it’s a tree lover’s dream!

gorgeous

The climate here is so serene that when the British came to Kenya, they made the highlands their home and named them the White Highlands. It’s a colonialist’s dream! The fairy tale ends here though. Massive deforestation has reduced Kenya’s forest cover from 18% in the early 1960s to less than 7% in 2021! For a nature lover like me, this breaks my heart. For local communities like mine that depend on the forest for rain and the cool climate it provides for agriculture, this spells poverty and starvation.

Agriculture accounts for about 30% of Kenya’s GDP. We hugely depend on it. When I was a kid, my mom exchanged beans for a waiver on part of my school fees. The rest of the money would come from the little they got from our small tea farm. But droughts have increased in recent years because of factors I’ve mentioned like deforestation and water sources are also drying up. This leaves us with a population without a livelihood and a nation without 65% of its export earnings. We are experiencing the wrath of mother earth first-hand. Some people don’t realize how dire the situation is, but I bet they’ll soon. Developing countries like Kenya are the most vulnerable to climate change and yet the least ready to deal with its consequences.

But climate change is a global concern, and we are all vulnerable. Whether it’s droughts, devastating fires, increasing heat waves, rise in ocean levels or intense hurricanes… The fact is we are dealing with existential crises. It’s time we all became climate change sensitive. Speak out, use renewable energy, don’t waste water, use sustainable agricultural methods, plant trees and don’t cut trees. That’s what I try to do, anyway. There’s something for everyone to do in this fight, let’s roll up our sleeves.


Profile

I am Kirima , a programmer and free software enthusiast. Building the decentralized future, an open internet and open communities. View on Github.