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At the Coalface of Climate Change

Recently I was privileged to spend a few days in the company of a remarkable man. I first met Kenny Matampash in Kenya in May. A member of the pastoralist Maasai people, he runs a local NGO – Neighbours Initiative Alliance – that provides support to his fellow Maasai.

Unchecked modernisation

Kenny and his people are at the coalface of climate change. “When I was growing up, we had a drought about once every ten years, then it went to every five and now we have not seen proper rains for four years. We have lost about 80% of our cattle, our only livelihood. I know it is a strong word but I believe unchecked modernisation for us will mean genocide.”

Telling the story

Kenny happened to be visiting France so I leapt at the opportunity to invite him to Ireland. Desperately trying to draw attention to the increasing crisis  across East Africa, I knew Kenny could tell his people’s story better than I ever could.

And he did, on television, on radio, in schools and at a small seminar on climate change.


It was ironic that during his visit, the heavens opened. Not even our normal Irish drizzle, but non-stop torrents of water. We kept apologising for the rain, and then, remembering, apologising for apologising to a man who each day checked the internet to see if the long hoped for rains had come to Kenya.

Farming challenges

Airfield Farm in Dublin kindly hosted us for a visit and Farm Manager Eamon and Kenny instantly clicked. Immediately talking cattle feed, cross breeding and the challenges confronting farming.

Counting to ten

Airfield visitors were slightly surprised to see a Maasai in traditional red robes (plus gumboots and a large umbrella!). Originally a teacher, Kenny charmed a primary school group, teaching them how to count in signs as the Maasai do when counting cattle. This was then reciprocated by a recitation of one to ten, as gaelige, from the kids!