National Farmers' Day will step up climate action

Alice Amana harvests millet at Natirai farm in Loima, Turkana County. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

October 10 was confusing for many. You could understand those nostalgic about some past, but besides previously being a Moi Day, was it Utamaduni or Huduma Day?

The former it is, and has been since 2021. Nevertheless, we utilised the holiday. Six days later, on October 16, UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation designated World Food Day was observed, with a focus on "awareness of hunger and action for the future of food, people and the planet".

One of the holidays in Kenya should honour farmers and can be in October around this time. A few countries saw the light ages ago, and celebrate farmers nationally. Ghana has a national public holiday for farmers every first Friday of December. National Farmers' Day (Kisan Diwas) in India is marked on December 23. In South Africa, the National Farmers' Day is marked every first Friday of December. Malaysia celebrates its crop and livestock farmers and fishermen with Hari Tani every November 27.

As the world heads to Dubai for COP28 climate talks, farmers play a critical role in climate action, even as they sustain the global population and amplify food security. Farmers are society's backbone, the key to human, livestock, and other biodiversity's survival. More National Farmers' Day celebrations would highlight the importance of agriculture in meeting the nutritional needs of billions, besides employing and boosting economies' trade, including through the export of cash crops; a foreign exchange earner.

Farmers are nations' ambassadors of heritage. An encounter with indigenous people at the COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh last December enlightened me on how agricultural spiritualism could help increase conservation and sustainable land use. Celebrating farmers would encourage preservation and promotion of environment-friendly traditional agricultural practices, indigenous knowledge, and local food traditions.

Agriculture, as a sector, is a huge carbon emitter. According to the US Environment Protection Agency's data on global GHG emissions, "Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use" were responsible for up to 24 per cent of emissions by sector by 2010. Over a decade later, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development puts the figure at 22 per cent, showing farming as the major contributor in the cluster. Agriculture therefore contributes to the climate crisis as much as it is vulnerable to it. On the vulnerability, farmers suffer several climate-induced frustrations. They are part of communities in rural areas affected by market fluctuations, crop failure, and loss of livestock due to unpredictable weather patterns, hence direct victims of Loss and Damage.

Recognising the large-scale and subsistence farmers would open more ways for talks and participation to increase adaptation locally, as well as mitigation through reduced emissions aided by more sustainable agricultural practices and proper use of land, especially with large-scale farmers.

Farmers have pushed for significant advancements in technology, innovation, and infrastructure development in rural areas to increase market access and arrival to markets. Such national days can involve pushing for more policies favourable to the sector and the farmers, capacity building on new technologies, sharing of new research findings, healthy competitions as witnessed in the Agriculture Shows, and more to uplift their economic muscles.

A National Farmers Day in Kenya, would boost the honour and support of these unsung heroes, people who raised us through subsistence farming and ensure food security. It would also be an opportunity to encourage youth to venture into farming in ways that increase productivity and efficiency and tackle the climate crisis.

-The writer is a climate justice advocate. @[email protected]

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