Banana farmers’ resilience in face of global warming

Oliver Omega, a banana farmer in Vihiga County, explaining how the crop is grown.

Photo credit: Pool

Crop and animal production in Kenya and other parts of the world have borne the brunt of the effects of global warming.

Despite its vulnerability, agriculture is one of the primary contributors to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, followed closely by forestry, recent studies show.

Kenya has witnessed climate change shocks affecting dry and wet regions. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says Kenya is among the Horn of African countries adversely affected by climate change.

The other countries in the Horn are Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea.

According to the National Climate Change Action Plan (GoK, 2018), environmental degradation and deforestation are significant contributors to climate risks.

Deforestation leads to substantial GHG emissions. Forestry alone accounted for 32 per cent of emissions in 2015, studies show.

These emissions worsen climate change, hitting crop and livestock production and impacting livelihoods and economic activities of impoverished and marginalised communities.

The consequences include diminished productivity, profitability and crop failure, ultimately weakening traditional coping mechanisms. Urgent transformation is imperative.

The National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) has employed strategies in response, including promoting drought-tolerant crops and livestock breeds, adopting regenerative agriculture and implementing climate-smart agriculture solutions.

Other strategies focus on soil and water conservation and management. Small holder farmers are advised to embrace irrigation and harvesting techniques.

This has reduced reliance on rain. Regenerative agriculture, including terracing, raised seedbeds, push-and-pull methods (planting Napier grass at farm edges to attract insects), pest-repellent crops and minimum tillage are integral components of the project.

Significant increase

Furthermore, the project aims to enhance farmer resilience for sustainable livelihoods by promoting technology and innovations in value-addition, agro-processing and marketing, with farmers predominantly benefiting through collective efforts.

Oliver Omega, a farmer in Vihiga, initially cultivated traditional bananas but has transitioned to high-yielding tissue culture bananas, boosting his commercial production.

Buyers now seek out his farm for its high-quality produce, eliminating the need for Omega to actively seek markets.

“Buyers have learnt that I have good quality bananas and often come here,” he says. Mr Omega has recorded a significant increase in harvests, now selling 10 banana bunches a month compared to just one previously.

Similarly, Mwajumbe Salim, a farmer in Kwale County, has transformed his green gram production into a profitable and resilient agribusiness through innovative technology and management practices introduced by NARIGP in collaboration with Kings Agricultural Services.

Together with the self-help group, Tuwe Imara, they have overcome obstacles and increased yields, inspiring other farmers to build resilience and promote sustainable production despite environmental and economic challenges.

“Before NARIGP’s intervention, our group faced numerous hurdles in green gram farming, including limited access to quality seeds and mechanisation,” he says.

Through the project’s collaboration with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, farmers could access to high-quality, climate-resilient seeds.

Over its five-year duration, the project targeted and supported communities to identify and implement micro-project investments aligned with their value chains to address productivity and marketing challenges.

The approach facilitated a transition from subsistence farming methods to practices that enhance resilience and diversify value chains.

It also encouraged farmers to diversify into alternative livelihoods with a market-oriented support system.