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Change tact, farmers told as global warming bites

SMART HARVEST
By Gardy Chacha | March 26th 2016

There is a heat wave and many are feeling the brunt of it.

Many farmers may not understand what is happening, but scientists like Felister Makini of Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) minces no words: adducing it to the climate change phenomenon.

Climate change, Felister says, is exhibited by the changing patterns of weather that has left farmers prone to unexpected occurrences and led to crop failure.

“Traditionally, it has been easy predicting rainfall,” Felister says. “In fact, farmers in the olden days accurately synchronised their planting with rainfall season. It worked that time. The reason why it is less possible to predict rain and drought now is because the planet is warming and causing climate change.”

Generally, it is argued, that global warming is riding on high carbon footprint as the world exploits fossil fuels.

According to Felister, farmers should care about climate change and start adopting better farming practices and using seed varieties that can withstand erratic climatic conditions.

In October 2014, at a seminar in Wundanyi, researchers from the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) argued that climate change is no longer a theory but a reality whose effects are already being felt.

The team warned farmers from Taita Taveta that they will face serious hunger due to global warming if they (farmers) do not modernise their practices.

Bridgite Nyambo, a senior researcher at Icipe, said their findings indicate that although the area exhibits good rainfall levels as one progresses upwards, farmers still face major hurdles in producing enough food – and this can be attributed to changing weather patterns.

Nyambo, a professor of ecology and entomology, said farmers have to “change tack and be smart” to remain food secure.

As the government mitigates the challenge of global warming, farmers have to work alongside these efforts. They ought to plant food crops that can survive the weather, as well as include practices like terracing, rotating fields, mulching and agro-forestry, it emerged.

Felister says seed varieties produced through research will be a good starting point to assure food security even with climate change.

“The seeds can withstand droughts and high temperatures. However, not all varieties will withstand heavy flooding – which is also an effect of climate change,” she adds.

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