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.

 

floods, greatest contributor to food insecurity in Budalangi Constituency

The agricultural sector is the backbone of Kenya’s economy and a means of livelihood for most of the rural population. The sector contributes directly 26 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 25 per cent indirectly and accounts for 65 per cent of Kenya’s total exports, employs over 40 per cent of the total population, and over 70 per cent of the rural population depends on agriculture for their livelihood.

A photo of Mr Namanja from Igigo village during an interview

Although Kenya has a well developed agricultural research system, dissemination of research findings to the smallholder farmers, who are the majority of farmers in Kenya has remained a bigger challenge. Climate Change has been a big threat in food production systems and has hit majority of farmers as is the case in Igigo community in Budalangi.

Currently, over 100 thousand people in Igigo Community suffer from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition due to the effects of Climate Change as well as degradation of natural resources such as soil and water, loss of biological biodiversity, diminishing arable land and extreme weather events including intensive floods. Nearly half of those affected require emergency food assistance at any given time. At the same time, about 40% of those affected are children and are characterized as malnourished.

Food insecurity has a high cost to individuals, school learners, teachers and to society as a whole and has been a consistent pattern in all groups of people regardless of the income level, gender, age, marital status, race/ethnicity, or religion.

The effects of climate change being experienced by the Igigo residents have hindered the ability of smallholder farmers within this community to effectively participate in crop production and market systems.

In addition, food production in this community has also been characterized by low yields per land unit, minimal use of inputs, high costs per unit production resulting in low farmer revenues, which can also be attributed to weak integration into input and output markets

This year alone, over 90% of crops planted in this community were destroyed by floods which are normally experienced in the 3 consecutive seasons. When floods came early this year, all crops that had been planted were swept away, livestock too were swept while other lost their lives and we were all forced to seek refuge to higher places.” He continues by saying that “food became a problem and communities were forced to eat poor quality diets as a result of limited food options.”

The Government also came in to our rescue by offering relief foods but still that wasn’t enough.”Says Mr. Namanja Igigo community member

Nearly Three quarters of class 4 pupils at Igigo primary school interviewed reported not always having breakfast, but also not going home during lunch breaks. Pupils reported coping to the situation by depending on wild fruits or even stealing food from the young learners.

Due to the inadequate supply of quality diet, physical, mental, spiritual and social health, and wellbeing of these learners and their teachers has also been reduced resulting to fatigue and illness.

Generally the entire community also suffers higher rates of diet related diseases throughout the life cycle including low birth weight babies, childhood and infant anemia, lowered immunity from infectious diseases and dental caries. Climate change poses complex environmental and socioeconomic challenges that cuts across multiple and highly interdependent domains and areas of jurisdiction.

There is need for the Government to act on the Climate Change Adaptation strategies focusing on concrete and realistic intervention priorities that emphasize a comprehensive, collaborative approach, working closely with all partners and always seeking sustainable development. The climate change adaptation strategic directions must therefore take into account the very close links between human, ecological and socioeconomic systems.

It’s only by adapting preventive adaptation solutions that will facilitate the reduction climate change costs and may even, in some cases, profit by turning the effects of climate change into new opportunities.