Kenya: Women Building Resilience to Climate Change Through Organic Farming

All Josphine Omenta had was a 70 by 100 feet piece of land. It was a plot in the outskirts of Kisii town on which she needed to build a house, a cowshed, and two chicken coops. But Omenta, 62, was set on growing vegetables, too. How could she grow a vegetable garden on practically no land with, worse, increasingly erratic weather patterns?

But Mrs Omenta, a retired Kenya Agriculture Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) officer, found a way. She would do portable and keyhole kitchen gardening.

The mother of five is among millions of farmers now forced to find innovative ways to work around climate change characterized with prolonged drought, sudden, heavy rainfall and warmer temperatures.

“I purchased four vertical bags and planted a variety of vegetables.” she said. “First I got some soil and animal wastes, which I mixed and filled in these bags, made about 80 holes in each bag, and placed them at the concrete slab of this incomplete building.”

How was she going to water them?

“I have harvested water and stored in tanks, which I use for irrigation during the short rains to ensure I have a flow of vegetables thought-out,” she said.

During the heavy rains, she has no worries about her vegetables being washed away, unlike smallholder farmers who plant in out in the shambas.

Mrs Omenta’s neighbour, Isabel Mogeni ventured into organic farming. She makes her own pesticides from animal waste and a cocktail of plant juices, all of which add nutrients to the soil for higher yields.

“During hot and dry winds towards the dry season, I do mulching to maintain the moisture in the soil and this enables the soil to hold water for long,” said Ms Mogeni. “I also do irrigation during this season to maintain my production.”

Organic farming is one of the best ways of adapting to climate change.

According to Food and Agriculture of the United Nations, least 80 per cent of the world’s food is produced by smallholder family farms. But the repercussions of Climate change on agriculture are now squeezing out many of these family-based farms.

The international food policy research institute estimates that global maize production could shrink to 24% by 2050.

Globally, at least 350 million family farmers called on leaders at COP27 held in EL-Shelkh, Egypt, to increase adaption finance and promote a shift to more diverse, low-input agriculture to help farmers adapt to climate change. attribution

During the COP27 conference in Egypt, negotiations for loss and damage offset the burden impacted in African countries and help them, over 60% of Africa’s 1.4 bn people live in rural areas and depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods like rain-fed agriculture.

Nathan Soire, Director of Agriculture, says the intensity and distribution of rainfall has been disrupted, the long rain in high-altitude areas used to start in December to February and this was the normal planting season for food crops, while the low-altitude areas’ planting season would start from February to March, this has been disrupted by climate change.

Due to rising temperatures, there has been an emergency of pests and diseases such as the falling army warms, the temperatures are conducive for them and this goes down affecting food safety.

“The ministry has put structures of soil conservation methods and water harvesting such as creating awareness on the importance organic farming, innovative technologies and agroforestry,” he notes.

The ministry has advised farmers not to rely on rain-fed agriculture but think of agriculture technologies such as the use of irrigation because they are not sure when the rains will come.

“We have encountered situations where the rain goes when crops are flowering or fruiting, these are critical time because the crops need water more than any other time, however, due to climate change farmers find themselves in the receiving end with low yield,” says Soire.

Agriculture officers have always encouraged farmers to use climate-smart technologies such as organic farming through portable gardens and use of organic manure to improve the soil texture, structure for the soils to hold water for a long period of time.

to plant on the onset of the rains and also supplement the rainfall with irrigation, adding of cover crops, mulching and practice climate smart agriculture.

Henry Sese Director of Meteorological Department in Kisii County says farmers have to know the kind of climate they are operating in and know the kind of groups to be planted at different seasons.

He says during the dry season, farmers should plant crops which are reliable and take short time for harvest.

“During the dry season, we advise farmers to grow crops which require little rainfall such as vegetables, cassava, finger millet sorghum, sweet potatoes which take short time of about three months to mature, he adds.

Kisii County is currently experiencing unpredictable rain patterns with low rainfall and these has threatened farm produce compared to the past years.

Biovision trust’s advocacy on organic farming in mitigating climate change

Anthony Namukhogho a field officer of Biovision Africa Trust reiterates the organization advocates for organic farming and educate farmers how to adapt to climate change while growing crops. Organic farming is a sufficient and sustainable food production method which also helps to lower greenhouse emissions for crop production and enhanced carbon sequestration and improve biodiversity.

The impact of climate change has already threatened the food security globally forcing farmers to seek alternative methods of production.

This method of food production results to better soil quality and reduces pollution from fertilizers and pesticides. This makes soils more resilient to floods, droughts, and land degradation processes.

Organic agriculture provides management practices that can help farmers adapt to climate change through strengthening agro-ecosystems, diversifying crop and building farmers’ knowledge to best prevent and confront climate change.

climate change has affected farmers in consistent crop growing, Biovision trust has sensitized farmers to grow crops that take less period to mature such as the indigenous vegetables which takes four weeks to mature and ready for harvest.

“We educate our farmers how to prepare and use organic manure to add natural fertility in the soil,” he adds.

FAO that global food security is at risk without more support for small-scale farmers for them to adapt to a climate change.

FAO’s move to improve food security and mitigate climate change

QU Dongu Director General of FAO during the COP27 summit said small-scale farmers urgently need resilient, high-quality seeds adapted to increasingly challenging conditions. with innovative techniques like space breeding of improved crop varieties and FAO is working to achieve a brighter future for all.

“As part of the efforts to develop new crop varieties able to adapt to the changing climate. These new crops could help us adapt to climate change and feed the world’s population,” said FAO Secretary General.

He said, climate crises know no boundaries and how to respond to it will determine on food security and the future.” we must work together to ensure green and climate-resilient agricultural production. Leveraging science, technology and innovation is key

At COP27 world leaders worked towards the implementation of existing climate agreements. Global efforts and progress were done to identify high potential approaches and develop strategies to transform food systems, over 100 countries signed commitments to develop nations’ food systems transformation strategies. attribution

Global, food demand continues to grow as the world’s population is expected to hit the mark of 9.6 bn by 2050. Meanwhile, 820 million people are suffering from hunger as of 20211 whereas climate change continues to have drastic impacts on agricultural lands and livestock productivity. IPCC estimates that agricultural land productivity already decreased by 21%. attribution

High temperatures and extreme rainfalls damaging for soil health along with increased levels of CO2 reducing the nutritional quality of crops. Additionally, a further 17% reduction in yields of coarse grains, oil seeds, wheat and rice is expected by 2050 for IPCC’s highest temperature increase scenario.

Pilots across Africa are exploring strategies to reward farmers implementing HYRAP4 with Carbon Finance, around 90% of developing countries have included adaptation in their National Determination Contributions (NDCs).


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