Only smart farming will overcome climate change: Experts

Oliver Bill in his farm in Kisumu where he uses a solar powered generator to irrigate crops. Kenya is way ahead of many countries, in and out of Africa, in terms of use of such innovations, and scientists believe that it is a step in the right direction. FILE PHOTO | NMG

What you need to know:

  • Kenya is way ahead of many countries, in and out of Africa, in terms of use of such innovations, and scientists believe that it is a step in the right direction.
  • In 2015 during COP 21 meeting in Paris, developed countries jointly agreed to mobilise some $100 billion (Sh10 trillion) annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation while significantly increasing adaptation finance from current levels and to further provide appropriate technology and training support.
  • The experts noted that apart from scaling up emerging technologies in agriculture, there is an urgent need to invest in policies and training.
  • Notably, more than 300 million people living below the poverty line in developing countries depend on roots, tubers and banana crops for food and income, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Some 10km north of Kisumu Town in Miguye, Nyando Constituency, Oliver Bill, a 25-year-old farmer, is never worried about the rains.

Armed with a portable solar water pump and a mobile phone, Bill leases land that is closer to a stream or a river and plants different kinds of vegetables without fear of dry spells that have become a common phenomenon.

“With my solar pump, I can water my crops within a range of 100 metres from a stream or a river. And with my mobile phone, I can search through different apps to know where to sell my farm produce at a favourable price, and I can still access a soft loan to boost my agribusiness through the gadget,” said Bill.

Scientists at last week’s 2018 United Nation’s conference on climate change in Katowice, Poland, noted that the use of technologies and innovations like solar irrigation, digital agriculture, climate-smart agriculture and climate-smart breeding, is the only way to tackle the negative effects of climate change.

Other technologies rooted for at the forum dubbed United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP24) were bio-fortification, use of climate-smart seed varieties and use of drones.

“The climate is changing so fast that current technologies won’t be able to keep up,” Dr Graham Thiele, the programmes director for Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) told delegates at the event in Poland.

Kenya is way ahead of many countries, in and out of Africa, in terms of use of such innovations, and scientists believe that it is a step in the right direction.

However, with the Paris Agreement on climate change, which deals with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, there is an open window for farmers and entrepreneurs to access climate finance for further innovations and agricultural technology transfer.

IMPORTANCE OF NON-CEREAL CROPS

In 2015 during COP 21 meeting in Paris, developed countries jointly agreed to mobilise some $100 billion (Sh10 trillion) annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation while significantly increasing adaptation finance from current levels and to further provide appropriate technology and training support.

The COP 24 meeting in Poland was about putting down rules through which these finances will be made available, and to guide how countries will go about implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The experts noted that apart from scaling up emerging technologies in agriculture, there is an urgent need to invest in policies and training.

“Transformation of food systems will require interventions beyond the disruptive technological innovations such as continued investments in low-tech interventions, creating new and bold policies, and influencing consume behaviour,” said Sean de Cleene, the Head of Food Security and Agriculture Initiatives at the World Economic Forum.

The experts further highlighted the importance of non-cereal crops in enhancing food and nutrition security, especially for the rural poor.

Notably, more than 300 million people living below the poverty line in developing countries depend on roots, tubers and banana crops for food and income, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

These crops, which include banana, arrow roots, cassava, Irish potato, sweet potatoes and yams, have immense potential for reducing hunger and malnutrition and helping smallholder farmers adapt to climate change, said the scientists.

“With climate change, varieties will need to respond to hotter and drier conditions, but also more weather variability and extreme events, higher salinity with rising sea levels and more attacks from pest and diseases as higher temperatures increase incidence and severity,” said Hugo Campos, Director for Research at the International Potato Centre (CIP).

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