Climate change has become a threat to food security the world over. Its effects include unpredictable rains, leading to decreased yields and increased production costs.
Experts say unless farmers embrace climate-smart agriculture, production will continue to dwindle, leading to deceased incomes, job losses and hunger.
Climate-smart agriculture and policy expert John Recha says there is need to step up efforts to train farmers to embrace innovative practices.
“New pests and diseases have cropped up,” Dr Recha said.
He insists that there is need for concerted efforts among private and public industry stakeholders to give more attention to research.
“There should be sustained innovation in drought-resistant seed varieties, environment friendly practices and better post-harvest management to reduce on losses,” he said.
The Kitui County government is promoting a scheme known as Ndengu (green grams) Revolution. It encourages farmers to grow the drought-resistant and highly-in-demand crop.
During a recent workshop organised by The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) on climate-smart agriculture, Kitui Agriculture executive Emmanuel Kisangau said farmers need training.
“We want to empower farmers to make informed decisions such as planting at the right time and the right crop,” Kisangau said.
SNV’s €39 million five-year project — Climate-Smart Agriculture East Africa (CSA-EA) — supports such programmes. It is being implemented in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
According to the project’s manager in Kenya, Joseph Muhwanga, the use of climate-smart agriculture innovations and technology is often limited to large scale farmers.
“Knowledge dissemination to small scale farmers will be critical,” he said.
Leah Muema, a farmer in Mosa, Kitui County, is among locals who have been hit hard by erratic rainfall.
“The rains were unpredictable last year. They came in torrents, destroying my ndengu crop. We also battled strange pests and diseases,” she said.
Malcolm Ngui, also a green gram producer in Ndunguni, said without improved crop husbandry, farmers would continue to register losses.
First Secretary for Food Security and Water at the Royal Dutch Embassy Sanne Willems said the whole value chain should be looked into.
“It will be counter-productive if farmers increase the yield but the prices are low,” she said.
At a similar workshop in Nakuru targeting potato farmers, it was observed that mechanisation can help reduce the effects of global warming.
Prof Pascal Kaumbutho of Agrimech Africa Ltd said rainy seasons have become shorter.
“There is need for efficiency in land preparation, planting, harvesting, grading, transport and storage,” said the don who spends time with farmers in rural areas training them on the benefits of mechanisation.
“Some 48 people will take a whole day harvesting an acre of potatoes while a harvester will take barely two hours,” he said.
Farmers were encouraged to invest in irrigation instead of relying on rains. They were urged to join hands and build water pans.
The farmers were told to join cooperative societies “given that working in groups can increase your bargaining power”.