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Monday, 27 October 2014

Climate smart agriculture is the way to go

By Bob Aston
The effect of climate change is posing a great challenge to the production of food in Kenya. The rapid and uncertain changes in rainfall patterns and temperature regimes has increased the vulnerability of smallholder farmers and most of them are set to realize low yields this year.
This problem has also been made worse by land degradation which is reducing the productive capacities of cropland, rangeland and woodland during a time of rising demand for food, fibre, fuel, freshwater, fodder, household energy and income.
Farmer displaying his farm produce during World Food Day celebrations
The smallholder farmers risk being overwhelmed by the pace and severity of climate change yet they are the mainstay of food production in the country. To ensure a food secure future, farming must become climate resilient.
In order to address this problem it is now important for farmers to adopt Climate-smart agriculture which is an integrative approach to address these interlinked challenges of food security and climate change.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines climate-smart agriculture as consisting of three main pillars namely; sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes in order to meet national food security development goals, building resilience and the capacity of agricultural and food systems to adapt to climate change and seeking opportunities to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases and increase carbon sequestration.
Climate smart agriculture is a way to achieve short and long term agricultural development priorities in the face of climate change and serve as an integrator to other development priorities.
There is now an increasing awareness of the impact that agriculture has on climate, particularly through production of methane and nitrous oxide-potent greenhouse gases. Agricultural innovation for climate change resilience and mitigation is the surest way of ensuring food security for the growing population.
Ministry of Agriculture official displaying some crops produced in Sipili
Smallholder farmers output are constrained by inherently low fertility, poor access to inputs such as certified seeds and fertilizers, poor post harvest handling and lack of market. In order to shift from some of this challenges farmers now need to invest in more productive, resilient and low-carbon agriculture.
This will require a major change from the way smallholder farmers manage their land, water, nutrients and genetic resources.
Climate smart agriculture approach entails greater investment in managing climate risks, understanding and planning for adaptive transitions that may be needed like new farming systems or livelihoods and exploiting opportunities for reducing or removing greenhouse gas emissions where feasible.
The United Nations launched the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture on Sept. 24 in New York, during the U.N. Climate Summit.
The initiative includes techniques such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry, intercropping, crop rotation, improved extreme weather forecasting, integrated crop-livestock management and improved water management. The aim is to increase the ecological production of food in order to reduce carbon emissions.
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