Innovation to inform farming activities, combat climate change

Farmers can now accurately plan what and when to plant for up to 100 years ahead, thanks to an invention by a Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) professor.

Climate Atlas, a website showcasing long-term temperature and rainfall variations, gives weather projections for a period between 50 and 100 years, giving farmers the information they need to plan ahead.

Climate Atlas is the brainchild of John Wesonga, an associate professor in the department of horticulture at (JKUAT). The website will be launched in the next one month, according to the lecturer.

“Farmers will log onto the website and look at weather-temperature and rainfall situation in their respective counties. It gives maximum number of continuous wet or dry days, thereby advising whether to plant normal or drought resistance crops,” he said.

In the face of climate change, Wesonga said the innovation will advise farmers on the type of irrigation to deploy in their farms amid rising temperatures.

“People assume climate change is about less rainfall, concentrating and investing solely on irrigation. Yet we’re experiencing high levels of temperatures that cannot support crops,” he said. 

He warned that availability of water will not help crops survive high temperatures. “It is like growing crops in boiling water,” he said.

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Long-term climate projection will also advise on whether or not to invest in certain weather-related projects such as dams.

Financial institutions that deny loans on agricultural investments due to unpredictable climate changes will also be reassured by long-term weather projections.

Food security

The Climate Atlas project started two years ago and is supported by the Netherlands.

In Kenya, the tool was announced last week, during a seminar dubbed Food Security and Water Partner Day 2019, organised by Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at a Nairobi hotel.

The event themed ‘Building Resilience for Sustainable Water Management and Food Security’ discussed how linking water and agriculture sectors can help achieve food security.

“We’ve brought private sector and development organisations, NGOs, researchers, from both water and agriculture sector to discuss and come up with ideas on how to solve the food security and water problems together,” said Sanne Willems, the First Secretary Food Security and Water at the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  

Ms Willems lauded the Climate Atlas, saying it will help counties support farmers either in short or long term by following weather patterns provided.

“It will warn (farmers) not to grow crops that need a lot of water when it is going to be dry,” said Sanne.

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