Unpredictable weather patterns and rising temperatures are threats to water and food security everywhere, especially in the drylands where the precious commodities remain scarce.
Researchers are exploring how to use the indigenous knowledge of affected communities to help them cope with climate shocks.
Joy Obando, a professor of geography at Kenyatta University, says that indigenous technologies that work can be packaged by scientists for the benefit of farmers in arid areas.
This will include identifying drought-resilient trees, water harvesting and conservation and proper food and pasture production and storage.
Prof Obando says that while water and food security are top priorities for many sub-Saharan African countries, governments either lack the policies to ensure access to adequate and clean water, or the policies exist but cannot work because they are not informed by research.
She was speaking during a forum dubbed BRECcIA, which seeks to strengthen the capacity of researchers from Kenya, Ghana and Malawi, to carry out targeted research that can yield results for sustainable water and food security in the drylands, by informing policies that address climate change.
Kenyan researchers under the BRECcIA project include scientists from University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology and Technical University of Kenya.
The scientists said that coming up with research that can address water and pasture scarcity in arid areas will save the farmers and pastoralists from the devastating effects of prolonged drought.
The experts are working to identify key issues affecting water and food in the drylands, as well as current research on these issues, before coming up with ideas which will be implemented at the county and national level.
“Communities have the knowledge. Now scientists need to help them in packaging and disseminating the knowledge better,” said Prof Christopher Shisanya, a researcher from Kenyatta University.
The researcher said that through the four-year BRECcIA project they will work with various people to ensure that the studies in rural areas benefit both farmers and county governments.
Omar Jibril, the coordinator of ASAL (arid and semi-arid lands) stakeholders’ forum, said that addressing their challenges requires research that is locally relevant and solutions developed and tested by local researchers and practitioners.
“Researchers need to understand the link between small-scale food production, dryland variability, not only to influence policies, but also to ensure that their research can benefit the communities,” said Mr Jibril, noting that most ideas are implemented without research to find out whether they are useful to the local community, hence why they fail to work.