Climate smart agriculture key to food security

Agriculture supports a big chunk of Kenya’s economy. As a result of the change in the weather patterns, the sector is vulnerable to climate shocks and long-term weather changes.

Climate change is not threatening food security but is also contributing to the loss of biodiversity, insecurity and nutrition.

The situation on climate change is worsening daily as natural hazards from extreme weather events such as drought and flooding are increasing. This has created greater loss and damage.

The narrative becomes more reflective in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) where communities live and breathe livestock and agro pastoral activities. Recurring drought has led to loss of livestock assets and increasing land degradation.

The change of climatic patterns is making it difficult for farmers to know what to plant when- resulting in reduced yields with farmers counting losses.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, economic losses from climatic events could be up to 3 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2030 and up to 5 per cent in 2050 if the impact on climate change on Kenya’s food system is not addressed effectively.            

We all depend on farmers for food. However, if Kenya cannot meet the increasing demand for food from within our borders, we will need to rely on imports.

Global events lead to an increase in food prices. With such events culminating in food insecurity, a decrease in nutrition of our population will be inevitable.  So, how can we avert a possible global food security crisis?

Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is the solution to these problems. It involves actions that sustainably increase productivity, enhance adaptation, reduce greenhouse emissions to a possible zero and enhance achievement of national food security and development goals. Responding to the impact of climate change takes a whole village.

Recently, players in the agricultural sector curated the launch of the 2022-2026 Climate Smart Agriculture Multi Stakeholder platform strategic plan (CSA-MSP).

Being spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture, the five-year strategic plan aims to equip farmers with adaptation practices on climate action, geared to increase food production hence, reducing the food prices.

Started in January 2019, CSA-MSP is an inclusive and well-coordinated sector implementing climate actions. It also aims to provide an inclusive platform for agriculture stakeholders to share knowledge and collaborate for increased promotion and adoption of climate action in Kenya.

Since its establishment, the CSA-MSP has made great strides in expanding from national level to direct engagement at the county level.

“Based on the climate change impact, it is apparent that climate it is not only a threat to achievement of sustainable development and poverty elevation but deprives our livelihoods and economic sustenance and limits the chances of achievement of food and nutrition security.

The connection between the challenges of ensuring global food security and addressing climate change has caused government, development partners, organisations and scientists to search for opportunities to address this challenges in a very integrated way and approach," Agriculture CAS Anne Nyaga said.

An equality-oriented and inclusive approach to climate smart agriculture practices and programmes as outlined in the CSA-MSP will focus on the different needs of women, men, youth and communities.

Furthermore, the implementation of the strategic plan will promote empowerment of these groups to enhance positive impact for all. The efforts on the county level will ensure that monitoring and evaluation is robust to foster effective transformation of the agricultural sector.

“Soil is a significant storage for carbon from the atmosphere through biomass and the second largest carbon storage in the world. That gives us the opportunity and responsibility to protect soil organic carbon in the soil and also to rehabilitate soil by using biomass based soil amendments.” David Kersting, Project Manager, GIZ said. 

"We want to aim to improve inclusive livelihood opportunities through farming, employment regeneration, entrepreneurship, and access to productive resource, resulting in improving incomes and economic resilience, but we also want to look to increase year round access to use of adequate food and consumption of adequate diet.” Hans Heijdra, Global Managing Director, SNV said.

The climate smart agriculture practices include: development and use of drought and heat tolerant potato varieties, finding use for waste products from potatoes, training on the costs and benefits of crop insurance, reduction of post-harvest losses through support of agricultural machinery, adoption of biological pesticides for green gram farmers, conservation of agriculture practices such as zero tillage, and mulching, adoption of a warehouse receipting system and making use of waste material for biogas.

For pastoralism, the practices entail shifts in herd composition from cattle to goats and/or camels, government support for improved mobility to access pasture and water during dry seasons and insuring animals through index-based livestock insurance (Kenya Livestock Insurance programme).

In dairy farming, ensuring animal housing shields cows from excessive heat, providing feed supplementation to increase productivity, providing of adequate water, improving collection systems to reduce spoilage and biogas systems to provide household energy and reduce emissions from manure.

And aquaculture entails development of integrated systems that utilise waste from chickens raised for eggs or meat in fish farming to reduce costs of fertiliser and feed and maximise profits and adopting finger-pond technology through digging ponds in wetlands that are naturally filled with water and stocked with natural fish when lake levels rise.

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