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Why farmers should care about climate change

For decades, residents of Northern Kenya have learnt the hard way to adapt to new ways of living and changing climate conditions in order to survive. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

Just like my elderly mother upcountry, many smallholder farmers continue to undertake their farming activities with ignorance.

As they farm, they do not factor in the new reality called climate change.

For instance, I still witness farmers in arid and semi-arid areas planting poor quality, low-yielding, slow maturing and drought-prone seeds instead of the more resilient and promising hybrid varieties.

Knowledge is power and so today I will shed light on climate change so that farmers can make informed decisions.

The United Nations Environment Programme says climate change is one of the most pervasive and threatening crises of our time. 

Experts warn that if we continue along our current path, the consequences will be devastating, having implications on where we live, how we grow food and other services vital to our well-being. 

What is climate change?

There are numerous definitions of climate change, but I will pick the most straightforward.

The National Geographic defines climate change as a long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. Put simply, climate change refers specifically to the rise in global temperatures from the mid-20th century to present.

What is causing climate change?

The National Geographic links it to largely human activity, like burning fossil fuels, like natural gas, oil, and coal. Burning these materials releases what are called greenhouse gases (GHG) into Earth’s atmosphere. There, these gases trap heat from the sun’s rays inside the atmosphere causing Earth’s average temperature to rise. This rise in the planet’s temperature is called global warming.

Most importantly, Agriculture contributes greatly to the climate problem. It generates 19–29 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. When forests which absorb carbon are cut down and left to rot, or burned, that stored carbon is released, contributing to global warming.

What is the impact? 
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says climate change has direct and indirect effects on agricultural productivity including changing rainfall patterns, drought, flooding and the geographical redistribution of pests and diseases.

What can be done?

To cope with climate change, farmers must adapt and be resilient. That is why FAO is proposing climate smart agriculture, an approach for developing agricultural strategies to secure sustainable food security under climate change.

According to FAO, climate smart agriculture aims to tackle three main objectives: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible. This is where activities like minimal tillage come in.  Next week we will dwell on climate smart agriculture.

-Hellen Miseda is an Editor at the Standard passionate about environment conservation

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