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How Climate Change Narrative Is Preventing Africa From Modernizing and Gaining Prosperity

April 19, 2024
Under a blazing Kenyan sun, elderly women toil on their hands and knees in the reddish-brown clay, separating the choking weeds from the small, green shoots of a finger millet crop. The women are barehanded and barefoot, and they work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. at night. Clearing a small field takes three days.

“A combine harvester could replace 1,000 people,” Jusper Machogu, an agricultural engineer and farmer in Kenya, told The Epoch Times. “It makes me sad whenever I see my mom wading through millet. We have women kneeling down and uprooting weeds throughout the farm all day, and it’s sunny. Those machines would change our lives.”

But farmers like Mr. Machogu can’t get a combine harvester. Even if they could afford one from the meager salaries they make selling crops, Western nations’ climate policies prevent Africans from achieving what the West already has—modernization and prosperity.
In November 2023, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use, the President of the Republic of Kenya, William Ruto, cut subsidies for fertilizer, fuel, and electricity for the 2023/2024 financial year. He did so at the behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a financial agency of the United Nations (U.N.).

“I come from a community where people use cow dung to fertilize their farms,” Mr. Machogu said. “And the reason for that is because last year, the government of Kenya decided that they were going to listen to what the IMF was telling them. It was telling them to end fertilizer subsidies.

“You can imagine how that’s going to impact farmers. The fertilizer prices went up by almost two times. We have very poor people around here. So, if I was [purchasing] 20 kilos for my farm, I’m forced to get 10 kilos now.

Most people have gone back to using cow dung, which is not a good nitrogenous fertilizer for their crop. You can’t compare urea, with a 46 percent nitrogenous content, to cow dung, with only four percent. It doesn’t make sense.”

Mr. Machogu said the IMF and the Western nations that embrace climate policies for Africa are engaging in neocolonialism, or “climate colonialism.”

And it’s no different than past colonialism, the likes of which liberal elites, such as former President Barack Obama, have condemned.

“Colonialism skewed Africa’s economy and robbed people of their capacity to shape their own destiny,” President Obama said while in Ethiopia in 2015. “Eventually, liberation movements grew. And 50 years ago, in a great burst of self-determination, Africans rejoiced as foreign flags came down and your national flags went up.”

Two years earlier, in 2013, while in South Africa, President Obama warned a group of young African leaders about the consequences of Africa achieving Western parity.

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A Samburu woman works to remove an invasive plant in Naibunga Upper Conservancy, Laikipia County, Kenya, on May 12, 2022. (Luis Tato/AFP via Getty Images)

“If everybody’s raising living standards to the point where everybody’s got a car, and everybody’s got air conditioning, everybody’s got a big house, well, the planet will boil over,” he said, “unless we find new ways of producing energy.”

The new climate colonialism is being driven by global entities such as the U.N., which says Africa should have energy, but due to climate change concerns, it should focus on wind and solar.

Calvin Beisner, founder and president of the Christian-based Cornwall Alliance, said currently “the most harmful policy” is that the IMF, World Bank, and agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development “refuse to do loans or other funding for coal, natural gas, or oil-based electric generating stations in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America.”

It’s particularly damaging in Africa, he said.

Vijay Jayaraj, a research associate for the CO2 Coalition, said he grew up in India and witnessed the growth of India’s industrialization—courtesy of fossil fuels.

“In terms of economic development, energy is the foundational keystone,” he said.

“If you’re going to disrupt how people get energy—where and what quality of energy they receive—it will have an impact. Not just generally, in terms of the economy and the GDP, but also the household and individual level,” Mr. Jayaraj told The Epoch Times.

Climate Colonialism

Mr. Machogu criticized the U.N.’s 2023 Sustainable Development Goals for Africa, which he said were developed after U.N. employees went to Africa to study the issues facing the continent. From that expedition, U.N. employees came up with 17 “solutions.”

“They said that one of the problems is climate change,” Mr. Machogu said. “It doesn’t make sense to me because I come from Africa. We have far bigger problems—people sleeping hungry, very poor people around me. I’m more worried about that than I’ll ever be worried about climate change.

Every solution to [Africa’s] problems is centered around climate change. [The UN says to Africa] ‘If you’re going to end poverty, let’s end it in a way that we don’t impact our climate. If you’re going to have clean water, let’s do it in a way that will not be too bad for the climate.”

He said modern civilization has “four pillars of civilization”—steel, cement, plastic, and fertilizer.

“Without fossil fuels, we can’t produce these four pillars of civilization. Without fossil fuels, we don’t have energy. We must have fossil fuels. It’s how the West beat poverty.”

The U.N. Environment Programme’s (UNEP) current official position regarding Africa is to help it achieve modernization but to do so under strict environmental guidelines.

Notably, that includes increasing access to and reliance on wind and solar energy, encouraging countries within the continent to come together and talk about what’s worked and what hasn’t, “prioritizing emissions reductions from land degradation,” and developing a comprehensive framework for “Low Emissions Development.”
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(Top) Camels weak from a lack of sustenance stand behind a salt water well as they migrate to find food near Mochesa in Nairobi, Kenya, on Dec. 9, 2021. (Bottom) Shepherds watch over their flocks inside a park in Kyataganacharulu village, Karnataka, India, on Oct. 11, 2021. (Ed Ram/Getty Images, Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images)

Mr. Machogu said that, in layman’s terms, the U.N.’s policy boils down to “no fossil fuels for Africa,” which necessarily means no economic progress. Conversely, unrestricted access to fossil fuels could help pull Africa out of poverty.

“Let me speak for Africa because 60 percent of Africans rely on agriculture for their livelihood,” Mr. Machogu said. “We need fossil fuels for farm machinery. Despite the fact that the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, and all of these environmental organizations say solar and wind for Africa, we can’t electrify agriculture—if we did electrify, it would be a tiny percent.

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“Right now, our access to farm machinery is very low. I think about four or five percent [of Africans have access], which is very low compared to places like China’s 75 percent, India’s 45 percent, and the U.S.’s 95 percent. Almost everything in U.S. agriculture is done by machines. So having access to farm machinery really would change our lives because it would amplify and expand our capabilities.”

In addition to needing fossil fuels for machines and access to loans to purchase them, Mr. Machogu said expanded irrigation, courtesy of fossil fuels, would benefit Africa.

“Africa is not all green,” he said. “We have other places that are very dry. So, one of the easiest ways we can end that is by irrigating our land, and we will irrigate our lands using pipes from fossil fuels.

Holding up a yellow plastic bucket and panning to his surrounding crops, Mr. Machogu said most Africans get water for crops by lugging it from wells. The further your crop is from the well, the more backbreaking and time-consuming the labor.

Finally, Mr. Machogu explained that urea use, a fertilizer made from ammonia and liquid carbon dioxide, is significantly lower in Africa, thanks, in part, to external pressure from entities like the IMF.

“Personally, we use the 40 kilos of nitrogenous fertilizer for one hectare of our land,” he said about his farm. “We have other people using 20 kilos. In other places, like Ethiopia, people use 16 kilos per hectare.

“Go to a place like the U.S., the West—which says Africa should not have access to fossil fuels—and it’s using 120 kilos [of nitrogenous fertilizer] per hectare. Europe uses 160–170 kilos per hectare, India uses 250 kilos per hectare, and China uses 360 kilos per hectare.

“So, compare 360 versus 20. Twenty is the average for Africa. We are using four percent of the world’s fertilizer—only four percent, with 1.4 billion people! It doesn’t make sense to me. So, we need access to fossil fuel fertilizer. That would change our lives in a big, big way.”

Mr. Beisner concurred.

“The fuel cost problem is real and rising in sub-Saharan Africa, frankly, around the world,” he said.

“As our policies drive that increase in the cost of fuel, we are essentially condemning people to have less food harvested and, therefore, less food available to put on the table at higher prices.”

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A farmer applies fertilizer to cabbages at a farm in Jibia, Nigeria, on Feb. 17, 2024. (Kola Sulaimon/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr. Beisner said the pivot away from natural gas as a fuel also impacts nitrogenous fertilizers, which need “vast amounts” of it to be produced.

Banning natural gas as a fuel would have a ripple effect, he said: fertilizer prices would increase, fertilizer use would decrease, and then food production around the world would decline.

Mr. Machogu said that unlike in Western civilizations, if profit from agriculture decreases, African farmers can’t simply look for another line of work.

“In Kenya, almost 80 percent of our population is earning a living from agriculture,” he said. So, there is no way we’re going to stop farming. What’s going to happen, and what has happened, is that most people are now getting less production from their farms, which means that you don’t have supplies to sell for you to buy, let’s say, cloth for your kids or to pay school fees for your kids.

“And for other people, they cannot even feed themselves [from their farm]. They have to buy food.”

India’s Path to Industrialization

Mr. Jayaraj said he comes from a family of farmers in India. But unlike Africa, India was able to modernize thanks to fossil fuel access—a process that started in the early 1950s and reached completion in 2019 with near-universal household access to electricity achieved, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

He said over three decades he witnessed “the socio-economic empowerment of people” in India.

“India’s population is 1.3 billion. And so naturally, it can be taken as a significantly large sample size of what’s happening with the farming sector when you introduce policies against fossil fuels.”

Mr. Jayaraj said more than 500 million people depend directly or indirectly on farming for their livelihood in India.

“When it comes to actual farming, more than 90 percent of India’s most commonly used fertilizer—called urea—is manufactured in plants that use gas or coal,” he said.

“So, there is no question that if this is impacted, a large portion of the population will suffer not just with their livelihood but also from the subsequent domino effect of food security for the country.”

Mr. Jayaraj explained that in the 1960s, India experienced significant poverty and famine. While these were devastating, they led to an agricultural revolution made possible by the use of fertilizers and fossil fuels.

“Almost all the farmers in India, if he’s not a large-scale or rich farmer, have loads of free electricity. This has become more and more common in the past two decades. It was possible only through coal-generated electricity, of which India has abundant reserves,” he said.

“You see not just fertilizers and farming but also electricity for small homes in rural India, which enables them to use electric motor pumps to draw water into the fields. It made a big difference. And you see fossil fuels on every side of a farmer’s life. Though he’s there in the field—surrounded by nature, involved with nature—everything he does is supported by fossil fuels.

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(Top L) A girl burns raw coal to make it usable for further sale near an open cast mining site on the outskirts of Dhanbad, India, on July 6, 2023. (Top R) A laborer unloads a sack of fertilizer from a train at a railway yard on the outskirts of Amritsar, India, on April 30, 2022. (Bottom) Children stand next to tents in a displacement camp for people impacted by drought in Baidoa, Somalia, on Sept. 3, 2022. (Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images, Narinder Nanu/AFP via Getty Images, Ed Ram/Getty Images)

“So, when it comes to farming and the whole sector, it would be devastating if they switched to organic farming or reduced the import or production of fossil fuels.”

Mr. Jayaraj said that while growing up, his relatives’ homes in villages and hamlets didn’t have 24/7 electricity.

“Whenever the electricity comes, I will see my uncles and grandfathers run to switch on their motor pumps to send water into the fields,” he said.

That experience and the recency of universal access to electricity have given Indians a deep appreciation for reliable energy and the proliferation of coal, oil, and gas.

“India is using a lot of coal. India’s rate of coal consumption is expected to overtake China’s because the power demand rate increase is also expected to be above China’s rate in the coming two decades. That sums up the benefit of unabated coal and fossil fuel use, which I’ve experienced over the past three decades.”

He said that, unlike Africa, India is not beholden to Western civilizations and has no intention of switching to or relying on renewable energy such as wind, solar, or electric vehicles.

He said that attempting such a switch would be “impractical” and political suicide for anyone pushing such a policy.

Missing the Forest for the Trees

Mr. Beisner said places like Africa, Asia, and countries in Latin America will remain in poverty without unfettered access to fossil fuels.

“It’s very important that they be able to build electric generating stations and that these stations deliver power at scale—massive amounts of power—reliably, without interruption. And that just can’t be done affordably with wind and solar or other so-called renewable energy sources.”

He said without industrial-scale electricity, people in those countries will continue to be “extremely poor.”

“And that’s a far greater threat to human health and human life than anything related to the environment, climate, or weather,” Mr. Beisner said.

“We know that partly because, over the last 100 years, the average annual human mortality rate from extreme weather events has fallen by more than 98 percent. So, prosperity protects us from whatever weather can throw at us. And the opposition to fossil fuels as energy sources keeps us from having prosperity.”

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A girl walks in a village near Sake, in Masisi territory, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on Sept. 27, 2019. (Alexis Huguet/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr. Machogu said that Africa is currently where the United States was in the 1800s. But unlike the United States, Africa isn’t being allowed an industrial revolution.

“In the 1800s, the U.S. had about 80 percent of the population working in agriculture,” Mr. Machogu said. “Today, we have about the same number of Africans earning a living from agriculture.”

He said that from 1820 to 1920, American farmers took around 10 minutes to produce one kilo of wheat due to lack of machinery. Today, it takes two seconds to make the same amount.

“If you came to Africa, if you came to Kenya … we have to separate the millet from the grass,” he said. “At the end of the day, you earn maybe $1.

“We have people fetching water from 600 meters away. So, you carry 20 kilos of water on your head and walk uphill 600 meters. We have people taking water from one kilometer away. It depends on the location.”

Mr. Machogu said that while most Kenyans now have access to electricity, it’s not on the same level as in Western countries.

“I come from a family of six people. I have three siblings, and my mom and dad, and we consume about 12 to 16 units of electricity. I’m using ‘unit’ to represent kilowatt hours. So, 12 to 16 units, and that’s per month for six people. An American refrigerator uses 45 units per month—just the refrigerator.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, almost 90 percent of our energy comes from burning biomass. Biomass is basically cow dung. So almost 90 percent of our energy is coming from that. In the U.S., over 80 percent of your energy comes from fossil fuels, and in China, almost 90 percent. Worldwide, over 80 percent of energy comes from burning fossil fuels. So, the fact that 1.4 billion Africans are using about 3.9 million barrels of oil per day is so ridiculous compared to the U.S. with its 333 million people burning 20 million barrels of oil per day.”

Mr. Machogu said he finds many Western leaders hypocritical.

“These people are consuming lots of fossil fuels—even Obama. If you look at Obama’s house, it’s a big, big house without solar panels—the same thing with this other guy, Al Gore. Al Gore has got a big, big house. And if you look at his house, he doesn’t have solar panels. So, these people say these things with a hidden agenda,” he said.

“And I think it boils down to Africa not developing and depopulation. Just that. It’s so simple.”

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