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To survive climate shocks, farmers must embrace conservation farming

By Gardy Chacha | Mar 10th 2018 | 2 min read
Conservation farming unit

Climate change is slowly peeling off literature and coming into reality if recent weather events are anything to go by. Kenya has (once again) found itself fighting drought and famine.

And while everyone is looking up towards the sky some experts believe it is time to lower the gaze back on earth.

Dr Judy Kimaru, Disaster manager and Animal specialist with World Animal Protection, says farmers will ultimately be the cog in the wheel as humanity fights off effects of climate change.

“Kenya’s GDP depends on Agriculture by more than 80 per cent,” she says. “If the country is to fight drought and famine we can’t ignore the farmers.”

World Animal Protection piloted conservation agriculture in Makueni County from 2014 to 2016.

“We primarily focused on better farming practices that mitigated against drought and famine,” Dr Kimaru says.

Farmers were expected to be aware of the environment they operated in. Instead of waiting for drought they needed to anticipate it.

“Instead of merely grazing their cattle we asked them to grow high value grass to make silage and feed their animals,” Dr Kimaru says.

Zero grazing limited competition for grazing space – especially with wild animals for farmers who lived close to high wildlife areas.

Some farmers were also requested to move away from areas that showed high wildlife populations.

“During drought wildlife move into nearby farms. Herbivores are usually the first to move; looking for vegetation in crop farms. Then predators follow them and prey on domestic animals. Some wild animals are killed by farmers. We wanted to make sure that such human-wildlife conflict reduced to a minimum,” Dr Kimaru explains.

Farmers prepared silage – enough to last months – and also did proper fencing around the farm to prevent wildlife from invading during drought.

“The data we derived from this pilot project shows that when farmers implemented these strategies human-wildlife conflict came down by 80 per cent.”

Recent surveys by Kenya Wildlife Service indicate that more people are encroaching into spaces previously known to be wildlife turf.

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