What you need to know:
- According to climate researchers, the national governments in the region should pitch for logistical and financial support to address climate change in sub-Saharan Africa.
- The climate crisis in sub-Saharan Africa has led to floods, drought, hunger, malnutrition and conflicts.
East African countries will meet their climate action obligations if they look for solutions from ordinary people in their countries.
According to climate researchers, the national governments in the region should pitch for logistical and financial support to address climate change in sub-Saharan Africa.
The climate crisis in sub-Saharan Africa has led to floods, drought, hunger, malnutrition and conflicts. Prof Cecilia Onyango of the University of Nairobi’s Department of Plant, Science, and Crop Protection says smallholder farmers have been abandoned without field advisers on quality food production and better farm management due to climate change.
“Climate adaptation means equipping grassroots communities with knowledge and skills on how to protect the environment as they produce more to meet the demand in the market,” she explains.
“Most of the time, researchers approach farmers for research, but they don’t give feedback on their findings; blaming lack of resources for failure to give feedback,” she explains. Prof Onyango says it doesn’t matter how much resources the developing world gets from international development partners.
“Suppose we don’t inform the farmers, pastoralists, and processors at the grassroots level how best to manage their activities, processes and products using climate-adaptable methods. In that case, we only pay lip service to a cyclic problem,” he says.
Dr Philip Osano, director of Stockholm Environment Institute Africa Centre, which focuses on research and policy, says farmers and producers need centres of knowledge near them to access crucial information. This is the way to go on climate adaptation methods within agricultural practices and during product processing, consequently safeguarding dwindling resources such as land and environment against climate change effects for food systems sustainability, he notes.
To enable smallholder farmers to find their niche in the agribusiness sector, resources for climate action should be brought directly where the farmers are located. “Too many brokers are in between, who don’t necessarily improve the farmers' lives. This contributes to delay in the resources’ distribution chain as the farmer waits for formalities to be completed, becoming too expensive to produce, in terms of money and time wasted.”
Forming a community interest group offers a soft landing for resources lobbying and sharing climate resilience and adaptation ideas, says Mr Peter Mutegi, CEO of Tegemeo Cereals Aggregation Company in Tharaka Nithi County.
“I started as an individual farmer in climate adaptation skills but realised the potential of involving other farmers to benefit from the same skills. Today, we have over 14,000 farmers growing sorghum, pearl millet and green grams within neighbouring counties normally classified as arid and semi-arid. This has enabled us to share knowledge, inputs and resources and attract support from financial institutions.”
Social development specialists are innovating community scale-up programmes to address climate-adaptable activities.
“Through governance of food systems for improved nutrition and food security in Nakuru and Kisumu counties, we are training farmers to improve farming of traditional crops and vegetables.
The training involves engaging the farmers in decision-making processes from farm inputs to market involvement and waste conversion. This is after we discovered that smallholder farmers were being sidelined out of the market, and their production was dwindling,” says Dr Samuel Omondi, an agricultural economist.
The Central Bank of Kenya, in its latest economic report on the Agricultural Sector Survey, says the sector, which contributes 20 per cent of GDP and 27 percent indirectly through its linkages with other sectors, experienced a decline from 5.2 per cent in 2020 to 0.1 per cent in 2021, blamed on weather conditions.
Maize production decreased from 42.1 million bags in 2020 to 36.7 million in 2021. Other crops that suffered production decline include beans, coffee, wheat and tea. A similar status was experienced during the first, second and third quarters of 2022 as the key sectors recorded a worrying downward trend.
“Given the high reliance on rain-fed farming, farmers are increasingly vulnerable to drought and unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change,” says the report.