East African farmers build climate change resilience through innovative farm practices
From intercropping, mulching to relying on indigenous knowledge, smallholder farmers in East Africa are developing resilient techniques to insulate themselves from changing weather patterns at a time when studies show they will be among the most affected in years to come.
Already failed rains and disrupted planting and harvesting seasons have taken a toll on farmers’ yields and ultimately affecting crop production even as population soars to unprecedented highs.
According to Greenpeace, an NGO that champions for behaviour and attitude change in protection of the environment, East Africa farmers have offered hope and determination in their resilience towards vagaries of weather.
In a multimedia exhibition by Greenpeace Africa and the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE), ten farmers in Eastern and Western Kenya have been captured giving their resilient stories as they struggle to beat climate change.
Dubbed “The Era of Resilience- the Journey of a Kenyan Farmer, the exhibition has been pivotal in showcasing ecological farming practices that the country's smallholder farmers have embraced while shwocasing first hand farmer experiences even as they call for support to improve livelihoods and advance their farming agenda.
“This exhibition is a positive move towards advancing the ecological farming movement not only in Kenya but also for the entire African continent. Local organisations and small scale farmers are joining forces to present thoughtful, modern farming methods based on age-old resilience techniques. This exhibition aims to present a future where the Kenyan Food system can be secured and become a development model for others on the continent.” said Greenpeace Africa Executive Director, Michael O’Brien Onyeka.
The organization is also launching a report dubbed “Building environmental resilience: A snapshot of farmers adapting to climate change in Kenya”. The report sums up smallholder farmers' low cost but innovative ways of adapting to weather vagaries.
And as farmers look for new and proactive ways to rise above the vagaries, equal participation of women and men in agriculture including ownership to land and access to credit facilities is key in assisting farmers mitigate against the effects of climate change another study has shown.
According to the research paper cited and published in Global Environment Change and which examines adaptation to climate change by farmers in East and West Africa, although gender on its own is not a key determinant in matters mitigation, ensuring that resilience is equally enhanced for both men and women farmers would go along way in boosting mitigation.
Global food security according to the research paper may not be achieved in the wake of the ever increasing reality of climate change if investment is not done to the millions of smallholder women farmers.
The heightened attention on mitigation and resilience especially among smallholder farmers in Kenya and East Africa has come at a time when numerous studies have shown that the areas are among those that will experience the greatest impact of weather vagaries by 2050. Already phenomena unprecedented in the country are now being experienced.
For example Western Kenya one of the areas traditionally known as the country's breadbasket has turned into a basket case as rains fail. Frost experienced in tea growing zones in the country like Nyeri affected output and ultimately exports ruining smallholder incomes. Pests that would traditionally not have affected certain crops now do.
According to scientists key crops relied by majority of farmers in Kenya and Africa will be the most affected by climate change affecting overall production by the year 2050. For example scientists predict that maize production will drop by 22 per cent, cassava by 8 per cent and groundnut by 18 per cent.