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Friday, 5 February 2016

Leveraging on climate information to increase food production

By Nyapola Atenya and David Wanjohi
Increasing smallholder farmer’s access to information on weather and climate change is essential in mitigating the effects of climate anomalies and ensuring that farmers are able to plan, manage weather risks, and maximize production.
The need to ensure farmers receive timely and effective weather information, prompted the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) in Laikipia County to collaborate with the Kenya Meteorological Services (KMS) to raise the awareness of farmers on the benefits of using weather information in decision-making.
The initiative involved combining both the conventional and traditional forecast. Until 2014, the Kenya Meteorological Services was the sole responsible agency for production and dissemination of climate information. Channel for dissemination were limited to emails and radio thus few farmers received the advisories.
Mzee Ole Kisio (In a hood) rolls out indigenous weather forecast in Laikipia North
The information was generalized and in a form that most farmers did not comprehend. This meant that majority of the value chain actors did not have access to the forecast - or if they did, they received the forecasts after the end of the season.
In addition, understanding and using the weather outlook to plan farming activities for the coming season was difficult, as the forecasts usually did not contain advisory messages to interpret the highly technical and bulky information.
Driven by its mandate to strengthen environmental resilience of the value chain actors, ASDSP stepped in by bringing together experts from government ministries, agencies, and civil society to formulate English and Kiswahili weather advisory. Dissemination of the advisories is through Short Messaging Services (SMS).
These advisories are instrumental in helping actors along the three ASDSP priority value chains take into account the weather and climate forecast information to adjust their farming plans and practices.
The enhanced quality and visibility of the downscaled seasonal climate forecasts and their packaging into simpler formats has enabled value chain actors to access climate information for decision-making. Most farmers now know when to plant, the seeds to plant, and when to conserve pasture.
Mr. Linus Mathenge, Chairman Tigithi Umoja Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society noted that the advisories informed his decision in establishing 5 acres of hay for dairy farming.
“I have been receiving climate information in a timely and simple way that is easy to understand,” said Mr. Mathenge.
On his part, Mr. Macharia Muiruri, a smallholder farmers from Muhotetu area said that the ASDSP advisories enabled him to realize bumper harvest. He was able to plant in time and use adaptable seeds as had been advised. He increased his yield from 15 to 25 bags per acre.

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