By Bob Aston
The effects of climate change is posing a great challenge to the production of food in Kenya. Smallholder farmers risk being overwhelmed by the pace and severity of climate change yet they are the mainstay of food production in the Country. To ensure a food secure future, farmers must adopt Climate Smart Agriculture.
Organizations like the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) have been promoting the adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture with an aim of strengthening communities’ resilience to impacts of climate change while conserving natural resources and also serving as an income generating venture for the farmers.
ALIN has strategically focused its efforts to improve the livelihoods of arid lands communities in East Africa through delivery of practical information using modern technologies with emphasis on climate change adaptation.
The International Non-governmental organization (NGO) operating in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania has been working with other partners to improve access to good quality information and knowledge on climate change adaptation practices using publications like Joto Afrika. The organization has also been producing documentaries on climate change adaptation as well as publishing and disseminating articles on climate change adaptation.
ALIN in partnership with Act Change Transform (Act!), with financial support from Department for International Development (DFID) and Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA) has also implemented a climate smart agriculture project in Baringo, Laikipia and Kajiado counties.
This enabled ALIN to support Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self-help group in Githiga Ward in Laikipia West Sub County, Nolororo Women Group in Ilchamus Ward in Marigat Sub County and Emaiyawata Women Group in Magadi Ward in Kajiado County.
The foundation of the project was mobilization of the three groups to plant horticulture in at least an acre piece of land. Each group has installed a solar powered drip irrigating system and invested in appropriate water harvesting technology.
The three groups have been capacity built on installation of drip irrigation and management of the system. They have also been taught about water harvesting and storage, plant protection, harvesting, value addition and marketing, agroforestry, soil fertility improvement using manure, solar water pumping and integrated pest and disease management. They are now using drip irrigation technology to produce nutritious food.
The groups have realized drastic reduction in use of fuel for pumping water thus decrease of emissions has been experienced and less time spent irrigating the farm. Consequently this has helped to mitigate the effects of climate change as well as increasing food production.
They have also come to appreciate the various opportunities in food production using minimal water resources and appropriate technologies as an adaptation strategy to climate change.
To ensure that the technology reaches more farmers, field days are organized at each site to train communities on food production using appropriate and innovative climate smart Agriculture technologies.
During the field days, county leaders and policy makers are invited to learn and encouraged to develop policies that can strengthen small-scale farmers to produce more food. The county leaders are encouraged to plan with communities and allocate budget and replicate the Climate Smart Agriculture project.
To sustain the project each group has started a revolving fund from the profit made each season to enable group members to reinvest and expand their farm while enhancing each member to access climate smart agriculture technology for food production at family level.
The drip irrigation system makes it cheaper and easier for farmers to grow crops throughout the year without feeling the burden of climate change. Other benefits of the system include: reduced work load in the farm; conservation of water resources; minimal soil erosion; ability to use liquid manures; uniformity in crops grown; energy conservation and reduction of emissions since less fuel is used; reduction of leaching and nutrients loss; and fewer weeds.
Climate smart agriculture involves using technologies that can assist farmers in transitioning from traditional farming strategies to new climate-aware ones. These technologies focus on improved water management through water harvesting and use of drip irrigation, soil and water conservation measures, mulching, intercropping, introduction of drought tolerant crops and practicing agroforestry among others.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization, climate smart agriculture consists of three main pillars: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes (food security); adapting and building resilience to climate change (adaptation); and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), where possible.