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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Enhancing Climate smart agriculture knowledge sharing

By Bob Aston
The effect of climate change is posing a great challenge to the production of food in Kenya. Smallholder farmers risk being overwhelmed by the pace and severity of climate change yet they are the mainstay of food production in the Country.
According to Mr. Peter Gicheru, Secretary Matwiku Horticulture Growers self-help group, to ensure a food secure future, farmers must adopt Climate Smart Agriculture.  He said that his group has adopted climate smart agriculture resulting in efficient use of increasingly scarce water.
Members of Matwiku Horticulture Growers self help group planting

Mr. Gicheru was speaking during the Tomato Value Chain Workshop, which took place at Sipili Catholic Church Hall, Ol-Moran Ward in Laikipia West Sub County on 30th September and 1st October 2015.

The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre organized the workshop in collaboration with Kilimo Biashara Promoters, Syngenta Kenya and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MOALF).
He said that among the climate smart agriculture practices that the group has adopted include Water harvesting and conservation. The group members have invested in digging a shallow well near the farm that is now providing sustainable water supply; drip irrigation technology, which uses water more efficiently and enhances water control and conservation on the farm.
He informed the participants that ALIN introduced the project to Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self Help Group in partnership with Act Change Transform (Act!), with financial support from Department for International Development (DFID) and Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA).
The project aimed to strengthen communities’ resilience to impacts of climate change while conserving natural resources in Laikipia County. He said that the twenty two (22)-member group has already planted tomatoes, capsicum, cabbage, and beans in their one-acre demonstration farm.
The groups picture display of the project during the workshop
“We are practicing Climate Smart Agriculture and it is a privilege to share with other farmers what we are doing. We want other farmers to also adopt drip irrigation technology because of its many benefits,” said Mr. Gicheru.
He said that they have mounted a 5,000-liter water tank on a firm metal platform with an elevation of three meters above the ground, bringing about enough pressure for water to irrigate one acre.
He said that they used to grow crops using conventional furrow and basin irrigation system that involves pumping water using diesel or petrol-powered generators from the nearby Kiriaini Dam.
Climate smart agriculture involves using technologies that can assist farmers in transitioning from traditional farming strategies to new climate-aware ones. These technologies focus on improved water management through water harvesting and use of drip irrigation, soil and water conservation measures, mulching, intercropping, introduction of drought tolerant crops and practicing agroforestry among others.
” The use of drip irrigation has enabled us to realize a drastic reduction in use of fuel for pumping water. This has reduced emissions and time spent irrigating the farm. We have also realized reduced work load in the farm and minimal soil erosion,” said Mr. Gicheru.
To sustain the project, the group has started a revolving fund from the profit made each season to enable members to reinvest and expand their farm while enhancing each member to access climate smart agriculture technology for food production at family level.
Mr. Gicheru noted that despite the various benefits of the project they have also experienced some challenges that have prevented the group from enhancing their production.
Some of the members admiring the fruit of their labour
Initially the group was drawing water for irrigation from Kiriaini Dam. However, the area experienced dry spells in 2014, which resulted in the dam drying up. They had to dig up a shallow well near their farm to overcome this constraint.
The Matwiku area is also near a conservancy hence human-wildlife conflict has affected production. Neighboring pastoralist communities also pose a threat because they occasionally allow their animals to stray into farms, resulting in conflict.
He said that last season tuta absoluta disease also affected tomato production in the farm. Various trainings organized by ALIN on Integrated Pest and Disease Management have helped the group overcome the problem this season.
“The rainfall pattern has changed in most parts of Laikipia County. Most areas are currently dry but this is no longer a deterrent to us, as we are using drip irrigation. We are now able to farm throughout the year, “said Mr. Gicheru.
The convergence of more than 60 farmers during the workshop enabled discussions on how to share best practices, enhancing farmer’s production skills on tomato, enhancing tomato value chain competitiveness, and ensuring smallholder farmers play an active role in the value chain.
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