The Mt. Kilimanjaro Snowcap
Throughout the years, it has inspired many artists; Ernest Hemingway has described it as “wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun” but today, these same glaciers of Mt. Kilimanjaro are menaced of disappearing.
The highest peak in Africa is slowly losing an essential component for the local ecosystem: the glaciers. In 2009, a study had determined that the snowcap on Mt. Kilimanjaro would completely disappear by 2022. An unbelievable 85% of the ice has melted since 1912. The Kilimanjaro’s mountain top crater is thinning at a rate of 5.2 m per year. While visiting in mid-September, we had the opportunity to discuss the effect of the disappearing snow on the local communities and find out what actions are being done to help counteract the current situation.
The primary cause of the disappearing glaciers is the drying of the air. This is caused by deforestation and urbanization around the mountain. However, one might ask, how can air dry up?
By cutting down trees, the water cycle is disrupted causing the water particles to directly undergo sublimation. This signifies that instead of becoming liquid water before condensing into the gaseous state (clouds), the solid water particles(snow) is directly becoming gas. While visiting Tanzania, we had the opportunity to see Mt. Kilimanjaro for only a brief couple of hours during our 2-week stay. This is due to the large clouds around the entire mountain, and the pollution of the surrounding cities. This was not only disappointing for us, but it has had a direct effect on the local, rural, communities.
But how does this relate to the disappearing snow?
Due to the disruption of the water cycle, there is less precipitation. Meaning there is less snow falling than necessary. Think of it as a bank account, if you are putting 100 $ into your account every month, but you spend 27$ a week, your bank account is losing more money. This is what is happening to the snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, there are still snow falls, however the amount of snow falling is not enough to sustain a long lasting glacier.
“About 4 years ago, the river water [passing near the village] was very weak” stated one man from the local community.
There has been a continuous decline, over several years, of the amount of water coming down from the mountain. The rivers coming from the mountains being the primary sources of drinking water for the community.
Each year, the local communities associated to this project plant approximately 1.5 million trees at the base of the mountain and their water sources. Since the start of this initiative, the local community stated they observed an increase in the water levels of the rivers. They continued to say that this was a good start however there is still much that must be done to conserve this ecosystem.
The community is also benefiting economically. Due to their crops, they have been able to purchase cattle, vehicles and also develop their organic agriculture.
This small community, in rural Tanzania, proves that one can help improve the local environment while also profiting economically.