Weatherman advises farmers to give fast maturing crops priority

Farmers preparing land for planting at the Chakama Smallholder Irrigation project in Magarini Sub County, Kilifi County. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

Farmers have been advised to plant crops that take a shorter period of time to mature as the country prepares for long rains between March and May.

The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) predicted that rains will start in March but will be below average.

KMD Executive Officer David Gikungu who spoke during the Sixth Conference of the National Climate Outlook Forum (NCOF) said the country will have depressed rainfall with some regions receiving normal rainfall. “Farmers who are used to growing crop varieties that take long time to mature should consider crops that mature in a shorter time because of the predicted reduced rainfall,” said Dr Gikungu.

According to Gikungu the total amount predicted in the three-month season will be below average.

Going by the analysis done by various sectors, the season focus for March to May 2023 does not promise a lot of rainfall and there may be gaps and delays where there will long period of no rainfall in some areas even after the onset.

The western region, Kajiado and Narok are expected to have normal rains in the focus season.

“The onset of long rains is observed in the Western region as you move towards the East and the Coast, onset comes towards the end of April. The normal onset is experienced in March,” said the CEO.

He advised Kenyans to plan for water harvesting before the rains come. “This is the time to buy and install tanks for harvesting. If one can afford it it’s better to harvest water in a tank than in a water pan due to evaporation after the rains are over,” he added.

The official said the current climate and weather predictions is opportune time for pastoralists to consider practising sustainable live stocking keeping owing to the unpredictability of the rains in the country.

Statistics by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) indicate that 4.4 million Kenyans are in dire need of food and the number could rise in the coming months while more than 2.6 million livestock have been lost due to the prevailing drought.

“Kenya and the entire continent is facing the worst drought in 40 years. We experienced the fifth consecutive failed rainfall season in October-November-December in 2022 with a backdrop of poor prior than previous usual seasons,” said a representative of PS Environment, Climate Change and Forestry Festus Ngenoh.

As of January 2023, NDMA indicated that the drought situation remains critical in 22 of the 23 Asal counties due to the late onset and poor performance of the October to December short rains coupled with four consecutive failed rain seasons.

“From the analysis by multisector, Kenya is likely to experience the sixth consecutive failed rain season in March, April and May. This will worsen the current situation and calls for change of strategies to respond to drought,” he said.