Sharon Looremeta from the Maasai tribe in Kenya and worker of the farming community addresses world leaders at the UN conference on Climate Change in Kenya 2006 to face up to the affects of climate change seen in Africa.
My name is Sharon Looremeta, and I am a Maasai and I work with my farming community. We have mainly herding animals and they have been suffering and continue to suffer from drought. Many of the animals we rely on are dying.
Two weeks ago, we welcomed you to our country. We had high hope that you were serious about addressing the threat of climate change, which is destroying the livelihoods all across Africa. Now we wonder if you are just tourists who come here to see some wild animals, and some poor Africans; to take some pictures and then go home and forget about us.
Dear ministers, we hope that the pictures you have taken remain fixed in your mind while you’re deciding what to do. Here is another picture for you: parts of Kenya have suffered a drought which started in 2003. These areas have had no proper rains for three years. During this time, in Northern Kenya, pastoralists have lost 10 million livestock; two thirds of the population in Turkana have lost their livelihoods. In Kajjiado, the Maasai country where I come from, we have lost five million cattle. We have had no part to play in contributing to this problem but we are already suffering the consequences.
Not such a pretty picture? And these pictures are repeated across Africa, and the scientists are telling us that, pretty soon, this kind of picture of hunger and suffering is the only kind of picture you’re going to be able to see here in Africa. I hope you keep these pictures in your mind when you are deciding whether this meeting will achieve anything, or not.
Dear ministers, we never asked for anything that you yourselves didn’t say was possible here in Nairobi. In all your speeches you said improving the Kyoto Protocol was important. But are you really willing to do the work to make it happen?
We said, ‘The review of the Kyoto Protocol is important to Africa because we need more funds to adapt to climate change – more than what we have now.’ And you said, ‘Later.’
We said, ‘We need new mechanisms to help sustainable development in Africa.’ And you said, ‘Later.’
I am a mother. I have a daughter. When she asks me what came out of the meeting in Nairobi, I don’t want to have to tell her that you said, ‘Ask me again next year.’ This was supposed to be the meeting for Africa – building and strengthening the Kyoto Protocol with Africa’s needs in mind. I think this should be called the ‘Safari’. You come here to look at some climate impacts and some poor people suffering, and then climb on your aeroplanes and head home. Africa is sometimes call the forgotten continent. And it looks like you’ve forgotten us again.
Just so as you know, the weekend that you head off on Safari or climb on your jet aeroplanes and fly back to your comfortable homes – no matter what country you come from, my people will be left out here with very little food, very little water, with our herds dying around us. My people are living on the edge of existence.
We believe your decisions have left a small window of opportunity to meet the demands of the people of Africa and the rest of the world. If they cannot be made today, they must be made soon. Give me some good news that I can tell my daughter when I get home.
This is the text of a speech made by Sharon Looremeta at the UN conference on climate change in Kenya in November 2006.
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