Climate change poses threat to ecosystems around the world. There are fears of a possible loss of biodiversity. This in turn has retarded the economies of poor and wealthy countries. Wallace Ashimbi, an agronomist and project field officer with the Anglican Development Services (ADS) Western region, who works in the Food Security department spoke to Seeds of Gold. The project is in Kakamega, Bungoma and Busia counties.
What are some of the effects of climate change on food security?
Bungoma, Busia, Vihiga and Kakamega counties were once agriculturally rich, self-sufficient and the country’s food basket. They now stare at food insecurity almost all year round.
Crops like maize, sorghum, millet, sweet potatoes, groundnuts and cassava that used to thrive in these counties are declining at an alarming rate.
This has resulted in loss of livelihoods as a majority of families in Kenya, especially the Western region, depend on agriculture as their primary source of food and income.
Declining crop harvests, attributed by unpredictable weather patterns, has put farmers in a difficult situation.
Many cannot cope with the untimely change of the climate. Some are giving up farming altogether.
Apart from temperature, there is also the problem of water and nutrients.
Plants do not get these at optimal levels, resulting in loss of quality, reversed growth, reduced grain count and low forage quality. All these are contributing to food insecurity.
What are some of the causes of global warming?
Climate change was as a result of volcanic eruptions and excessive rainfall in the past.
Human activities such as deforestation contribute to global warming too. Deforestation entails clearing vegetation on large tracts of land. This causes emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
The gases prevent heat on the surface of the earth from escaping to the atmosphere, leading to a rise in temperature.
Such an increase in temperature is responsible for the changing precipitation patterns.
Poor farming techniques also greatly contribute to global warming.
Many farmers cut down indigineous trees and replace them with more commercial species like eucalyptus. It should be noted that many of these new trees have no canopies and take in lots of water.
Excessive spraying of fertiliser, herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals by farmers without advice from agronomists and other experts tends to destroy the ozone layer.
What measures have you put in place to address the effects of global warming in Western Kenya?
The Anglican Development Services promotes climate resilience by encouraging and taking part in planting of trees.
We have also begun re-greening Maragoli Hills in Vihiga County with the objective of restoring its aesthetic and posterity value.
Vegetation causes the cooling of soil and increases the availability of water to plants and sufficient rainfall.
Farmers are also trained and shown to adopt ecological practices when producing crops.
They are encouraged to adopt modern science and innovation as this ensures healthy practices and food.
Ecological farming mainly focusses on securing land from fragmentation. The land is then put into agricultural vegetative production such. We encourage households to grow African night shade (managu), amaranth, cow peas and other climate-friendly food crops.
Have you been working with experts to promote climate-smart agriculture? If so, which agricultural practices do you promote?
We have a partnership with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services. The partnerships began when we realised farmers were getting poor yields as a result of using uncertified seeds.
Farmers are taught to use seeds that produce quality yields. Cassava varieties that do well in Western Kenya include MH95/0138, Migyeria and Selina.
Certified seeds are resistant to pests and diseases. The farmers are shown how to produce certified seeds on behalf of Kalro.
What does the smart agriculture training entail?
Farmers are trained on organic tillage techniques. They are also shown how to build sunken beds for moisture conservation.
Others have resorted to Mandela gardens, which entail raised beds. Here, the farmer is given control over the type of soil to use for growing crops.