Adapting to the Changing Climate through Climate Smart Farming Practices

Globally Agriculture has been a major contributor to climate change, mainly in terms of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock production and soils.

On the same note, agriculture has been termed as being responsible for 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Agriculture contributes about half of the global emissions of two of the most potent non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases: nitrous oxide and methane (World Bank, 2008).

 

Several social, Environmental and economic constraints such as persistent hunger, undernourishment and malnutrition, climate change, environmental degradation and pollution that threaten the resource base that agriculture depends on,  and ever-tightening constraints on resources , loss of agricultural biodiversity, high greenhouse gas emissions that contributes to global warming, inequities in access to food, and the marginalization of smallholder farmers rights, practices and knowledge are highly hindering sustainable food production systems thereby widening  vulnerability levels amongst local communities.

Moreover, agricultural systems have a stronger potential to avoid climate change through reducing emissions and mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration.

A shift towards having climate smart techniques and adaptation farming practices are increasingly gaining momentum as a system that could enable food sustainability by providing a set of farmer friendly and productive solutions that can realize more resilient and being self reliance in agricultural practices and providing communities with access to sufficient and healthy food under changing climate conditions.

 

For a period of 6years, community farmer groups in North East Kano Location in Kisumu County have been fully empowered by CREP-Program which is agriculture and environmental conservation based Kenyan NGO and are now realizing their economic impacts through significant improvements in safe crop production systems, food security, family nutrition, health and education within their households.

The farmer groups have been implementing a series of production practices that optimizes nutrients and energy flows and minimizes production risks. Appropriate farming technologies and practices have been considered very key as they enhances biological diversity within the whole system, builds complexity into the system to provide vital ecosystem services, increases soil organic matter and ensure good soil structure thereby increasing soil biological activity and maintaining long-term soil fertility, promotes the healthy use of soil, water, and air, as well as minimizing all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural practices, recycling plants and animal wastes in order to return nutrients to the soil, thus minimizing the use of nonrenewable resources. These practices have provided farmers with a wide range of options to spread risks during adverse and extreme weather events in adapting to climate change and building climate resilience furthermore they also enhances use of local resources. Just to mention three practices being implemented by the groups includes;

Use of organic manures

Minimal use of external farm inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides has to be considered when it comes to the implementation of climate smart farming practices.  Restricting the use of external farm inputs will therefore at some level curb CO2 and nitrous oxide emissions which relates to about 10% of direct global agricultural emissions.

The farmer groups have therefore put into practice the use of organic manures and bio-fertilizers which has enabled then enhance on the waste management systems and minimize emissions of green house gasses through composting. Increased crop yields under small plot units have been realized by the community farmer groups through the application of cured manures from integrated livestock production, composting of on farm wastes and diversification.

Much emphasis needs to be put on the use of organic manures as they improves soil quality and efficient water use which in turn help to improve farm resilience against the adverse impacts of climate change and strengthen farms’ adaptive capacity.

Crop diversification and livestock integration

Adaptation practices strives at the use of assorted crops species which seeks to enhance the agro-ecosystem resilience to risks and external shocks such as extreme weather  patterns  or  price variations, which are most likely to increase as the climate changes. This farming system also requires farmers to use safe seeds and encourage genetic diversity in their productions.

There is a greater need for most community farmers to be empowered on crop diversification as the system  make more efficient use of available nutrients with improved farm productivity and economic performances which are of high importance in times of limited nutrients and other  resources necessary in the production system..

Crop diversifications within these groups have enabled them produce sufficient cash and subsistence crops for household consumption. This has also reduced the

farmers’ vulnerability to volatile food prices and expenses within their households and has become self reliance.

The groups’ most outstanding adaptation strategy is the integration of crops with dairy goats’ under the changing climate. They find dairy goat farming to be feasible, low cost and affordable, socially acceptable, locally adapted and environmentally sound.

Madam Joyce one of the groups’ leader  literates that dairy goats have been like a saving to her, as the sale of livestock provides immediate cash to deal with significant or unexpected expenditures such as school fees. She has been using the integration system as insurance in case they experiences crop failures. Furthermore, dairy goats have also contributed to improved livelihoods by providing cash income through sale of animals or milk, meat and other products.

Even though climate affects livestock in different direct and indirect ways and which are capable of influencing their growth rate, milk production and reproduction, the groups have been able to adapt to the current situations simply by early production, preparation and preservation of fodders such as silage and hay.

Manures produced by these livestock are then cured to reduce N2O emissions and supplied in the farms to enable crops thrive.

Crop rotations & production of drought tolerant crops

Crop rotation is key as far as soil nutrient cycle is entailed. Farmer groups have used this system as themost basic and common form of diversity on environmental friendly farming.

Community farmers are encouraged to rotate crops and livestock from one part of the farm to another rather than growing the same crop specie over and over in the same point of production.

Farmers practicing this kind of farming system have been able to improve on their soil health, reduce prevalence’s of crop pests and diseases have generally maximized efficient use of soil nutrients and water.

Cultivation of drought tolerant crops such as sorghum, cassava and other indigenous crop seeds by farmers under different agro- Ecological zones, have improved on food security systems as farmers are capable of diversifying crop seeds specifically adapting to their needs and local conditions.

 Farmers need to put this into test as it gives them a leeway to produce their own indigenous seeds which seems to adapt well with the harsh production conditions.

 

There is need for most farmers    to venture into these kinds of crops as an adaptation measure so as to strengthen biodiversity supporting health and resilience towards being food / seed secure.

To achieve in minimizing green house gasses,  other destruction environmental activities and building on the climate change adaptation strategies, wider recognition of the potential of climate smart farming practices is needed among bodies that currently still promote conventional farming systems.

It would be of great importance and a bigger milestone if the national agricultural policy steps up support for the climate smart farming practices as an adaptation and mitigation strategy.

Supporting and promoting farmers own sustainable local indigenous knowledge of coping with the erratic weather conditions is also very key as most of the approaches have enabled them survived the harsh patterns and be resilience.

Its only through stepping up this agenda of change that will significantly contribute to achieving the SDGs in an integrated, comprehensive and holistic manner making the 2030 Agenda  real and valid.