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Monday, 13 October 2014

Effects of climate change calls for promotion of traditional crops

By Bob Aston
Traditional crops also referred to as “orphan” or “neglected” crops continue to play an important role in the subsistence and economy of rural communities. Despite their potential for dietary diversification and the provision of micronutrients, they have historically been overlooked as they attract little research and development attention because of their low significance in terms of global food resources.
Alongside their commercial potential, they are adapted to marginal soil and climate conditions as most of them are drought resistant.
The adverse effects of climate change in Kenya particularly this year which has registered erratic weather pattern shows that promotion of traditional crops can go a long way in alleviating hunger and ensuring food security in the country.
A maize farmer observing the poor maize germination in his farm
Traditional crops like millet, cassava, sorghum, amaranth, sweet potatoes, cowpeas and yams are pivotal in ensuring self sufficiency in food hence ensuring economic sustainability. Most of these crops are drought tolerant and thus can withstand the changing weather patterns currently being experienced in most parts of the Country.
Most Kenyans depend on rain fed agriculture but the unpredictable weather this year has led to massive crop failure in most parts of the country which is set to contribute to food shortage. The increasing temperature has also affected the growing of major crops in the country and thus threatening the livelihoods of farmers.
Traditional crops can significantly help improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers as their demand has recently gone up. Orphan crops are expected to soon become an income generating ventures for most farmers because they are more resistant to drought compared to other crops.
Initially, most farmers avoided planting traditional crops as people had a low opinion of such crops, thinking that crops like cassava and potatoes were for rural people who could not afford to buy bread. This perception has now changed with urban residents now consuming more indigenous foods than the rural people.
Climate change has increased vulnerabilities in Kenya. Resource poor farmers and communities or individuals with substantial exposure to climate change elements are rendered vulnerable, often facing serious crop failures, income losses and livelihood collapses. In order for Kenya to be food secured the national and county governments need to encourage farmers to plant traditional crops for subsistence purposes.
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