MESHA is an organisation that offers support to science reporters covering agriculture, the environment, health and development. Their aim is to encourage networking, training, meetings and workshops among reporters in Kenya.


Is the Paris Outcome a Panacea to global warming?


By Sophie Mbugua

As we enter the homestretch of the Paris climate summit, coalitions have emerged between sections of developed countries, small islands states and the least developed countries (LDCs) blocs.

This ambitious coalition made up of over 90 countries lead by the Marshal Island, coalesced to fight for an ambitious mechanism of 1.5 temperature goal.

In addition to the 1.5 degrees temperature target, they are calling for 5 year review of the soon to be signed Paris agreement, clear pathway for a low carbon future and a strong financial package for developing countries which includes $100bn per year. Read More

Eating desert locust meat could treat heart disease


By Mary Mwendwa

Eating desert locust could prevent heart disease, icipe’s study on Insects for Food and Feed research theme has revealed. According to Prof. Baldwyn Torto, icipe scientist,” we found that, as is the case in other insects, cholesterol is the major tissue sterol in desert locusts. However, we observed that after the desert locust has fed on a vegetative diet, most of the common phytosterols or compounds  that lower blood cholesterol levels,   are amplified and new ones are also produced in its tissues. In turn, this leads to a high phytosterol content, which suggests that eating desert locusts could reduce cholesterol levels.”

The Study is published in PLOS One journal.

He further explains, “Sterols occur naturally in plants, animals and fungi. The sterols from plants are called phytosterols and those from animals are known as zoosterol’s. Cholesterolis the most familiar type of animal sterol. Phytosterols and cholesterol have a common target of getting absorbed in the intestines. However, phytosterols have been shown to have a competitive advantage, as they are able to block the absorption of cholesterol. Although vegetables are generally the richest sources of phytosterols, insects have the potential to supply these useful compounds to people.

“Apart from cardiovascular protective effects, the researchers also found the desert locust to have a wealth of other nutrients, including proteins, fatty acids and minerals, which are beneficial for anti-inflammatory, anticancer and also have immune regulatory effects. As such, the desert locust is an excellent source of dietary components for both humans and animals,” Prof. Torto notes.

 The findings by icipe are redeeming for the desert locust, which is probably more reputed for its alarming threat to food security, for instance, through outbreaks in the Sahel region of Africa, which have been known to destroy land and crops, leaving hunger and poverty in their wake.

“We hope that our findings will refocus the research on the desert locust in a new emerging dimension; its potential as a component in food and nutritional security in Africa. Despite its negative image, the desert locust is already consumed in many regions in Africa and Asia. As icipe has proven over the years, the desert locust is extremely easy to rear, meaning that it could either be domesticated on a small-scale, or even produced through commercial ventures”, concludes  Prof. Torto.

The World Health Organisation states that 60 per of the global burden of heart disease now lies in developing nations. Cardiovascular diseases claim 17.3 million deaths every year and account for one in ten deaths in Africa. Kenya lacks accurate statistics of heart disease among its population, making it difficult to account for exact numbers of people affected. Reports indicate more than 74,000 incidents per year.

The four main non-communicable diseases globally are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic lung diseases according to WHO. The burden of these diseases is rising disproportionately among lower income countries and populations. In 2012, nearly three quarters of non-communicable disease deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries with about 48% of deaths occurring before the age of 70 in these countries.

 The leading causes of NCD deaths in 2012 were cardiovascular diseases which accounted for 46% of all NCD deaths, cancers (8.2 million, or 22% of all NCD deaths), and respiratory diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease accounting for 4million deaths with diabetes causing another 1.5 million deaths.

 According to Dr.Nicholas Muraguri, Director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health, many Kenyans are not on any medical insurance scheme. This makes it difficult for them to access affordable and quality health care services in facilities.

”The NHIF scheme needs to be more vibrant to enroll more Kenyans so that diseases that are non –communicable like heart diseases, cancer and diabetes can be detected on time and managed well. Most of these diseases have been long perceived to be for the rich but now we have low income earners affected too. As a ministry we are working towards an efficient health system where the devolved functions like health have to be very efficient in service delivery,” he notes.

   Similarly, population growth, urbanization, climate change, diminishing land and water resources, over- and under-nutrition, and persistent poverty, have aggravated food insecurity, especially in developing countries. Against this background, the use of insects as alternative sources of food for human consumption and feed for livestock has captured the imagination of the global research and donor community.

   Insects satisfy three important requirements: they are an important source of protein and other nutrients; their use as food has ecological advantages over conventional meat and, in the long run, economic benefits for mass production as animal feed and human food, and they are also a rich source of drugs for modern medicine.

  The study was jointly done by by icipe, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service

Short-term Goals Key to Achieving Global Warming Target


By Omesa Samwel

An ambitious, robust and binding global climate deal; that is what the European leaders are calling for following the flood of Syrian refugees into Europe.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates the number of migrants in the European Union’s at 350,000 in August 2015, the largest refugee crisis since World War II. However, experts warn that the tide of desperation is insignificant compared to the flood of environmental refugees that could be created by unchecked climate change.

With less than 100 days left to the UN climate change conference (COP21) in Paris this December, the number of those who doubt that the conference will produce a climate treaty is minimal. But that is seldom an issue of concern. Whether or not the deal in Paris will shape climate justice and limit global warming to below 2°C and propel countries to settle on a common goal of reaching a zero carbon emission by 2050 should be the key issue of concern.

The COP21 assembly is expected to adopt a climate treaty with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

In Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President’s words, the EU “will not sign just any deal” at the UN climate talks in December but would rather include a strong global emissions reduction target of at least 60% by 2050.

However, analysts believe that unless the UN climate talks agree to make sharper short term goals, we may risk soaring over the 2 degree mark.

Kenya, just like many other sub-Saharan Africa countries, is bearing the brunt of the prolific impacts of climate change. Kenya’s geographic location makes it prone to cyclical droughts and floods.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global climate change is expected to make such types of cyclical climate-driven events increase in intensity and frequency.

The country’s economy highly depends on climate sensitive sectors such as energy, agriculture that is mainly rain-fed, tourism, water and health. Droughts and floods which are the main climate hazards contribute to economic losses estimated at 3% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

As stipulated in its Intended Nationally Dependent Contribution (INDC), Kenya seeks to abate its Greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by the year 2030 in line with its sustainable development agenda.

In order to make climate targets more ambitious over time and catch up with the pace of climate change, Kenya and other countries need to come up with shorter term five-yearly review and improve process to complement the emission cuts to be agreed upon in Paris later this year.

If commitments are not increased, the world could be facing a swathe of potential crises such as the one for Syrian refugees. Formal negotiations have been held ahead of COP21 in Paris, but while most countries support long-term goals, short-term commitments have seemed to be far less popular.

A concession in Paris with short-term goals of say five-yearly cycles could sound imperfect without concrete longer-term goals. Even though this could enhance greenhouse gas reduction and climate protection in the next 15 years, it could still lack prospect beyond 2030.

An agreement with ambitious long-term goals but no compelling short-term measures on the other hand would allow nations to dawdle in their carbon emission reductions and many will fail to catch up after 2030.

We need to redefine Kenya’s carbon emission targets and decarbonize the economy as a part of the transformational agenda if we have to hit the below 2 degrees mark. There is great need to engage in practices such as sustainable land use via efficient and climate smart agriculture, carbon sequestration in forests, expansion of renewable energy and embracing of resource efficient advanced technologies to achieve this target.

Clean energy will mean reduction of overreliance on wood fuels. Low carbon and efficient transportation mechanisms, enhancement of efficiency in energy and resources across different sectors and expanding clean energy mechanisms such as geothermal, solar and wind will provide a sustainable alternative to carbon emitting fossil fuels.

With innovative plans and actions such as these, Kenya will definitely be at the forefront in achieving the zero carbon emission targets by 2050 and keeping global warming at below 2 degrees. There is a great need of a concerted effort at the UN talks in December to ensure that the current levels of emission reductions are not locked in until 2030, opening up a window for increased action in 2025.

Ramping up of a greater policy action needs to be encouraged as part of the Paris agreement for us phase out carbon emissions completely. Countries such as Costa Rica have already achieved a milestone by being 100% decarbonized. Kenya can also do it. Let’s take up the challenge.

The author is an Environmental Science student at Kenyatta University, volunteer at Greenpeace Africa, member of the World Youth Movement for Democracy, the World Youth Alliance and the YALI network.