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Brace for rising temperatures, researchers warn local farmers

By WANGECHI WAITHERA
Farmers and researchers tour a farm that practices conservation agriculture in Kambiti, Murang’a County.

 

Farmers have been asked to brace for rising temperatures that will influence the growth of crops in the near future.

Emmanuel Ochola, a climate change scientist at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has said in the mid-21st century, weather patterns will have completely changed.

According to research, temperatures have been rising in the recent past and will continue to do so, and that farmers have to adapt to the changes or risk experiencing recurrent crop failures.

Ochola said in the case of tomatoes, the crop requires temperatures of about 30 degrees to mature. Currently, he said, only two months after August experience temperatures of more than 30 degrees while in 2045, only two months will have less than 30 degrees.

Ochola pointed out that farmers will have to deal with increasing evaporation of soil moisture and find ways of cooling the temperatures for their crops to survive. Ochola said the university is undertaking research on climate change and how it is affecting horticulture farming in Kiambu and Kajiado counties.

The research is aimed at helping farmers adapt to weather changes and sustain the required food production. “We decided to first start with horticulture before rolling out the other crops,” Ochola said. He said historical data indicates changes in rainfall patterns and volume and that the research will help map the data and establish how the changes will affect farmers. He said their interviews with indicate that most of them are wary of water shortages in the future but are ill-equipped on how to handle high temperatures. The research will also help the government to put in place policies that will cushion farmers from the harsh climate and ensure there is food security in the country in the future.

“The research will indicate when a particular area will receive rainfall and help locals plan their farming activities,” he said.

Ochola, however, recommended the planting of indigenous trees as the best way to fight rising temperatures.

“According to historical data, the majority of the areas were covered by trees and the weather was reliable. We need to plant trees that are indigenous to a particular area to reverse climate change,” he said, noting that it is de-forestation that changed the weather.

The research is being conducted in partnership with researchers from the Netherlands.

Hassen Goosen, a director, and researcher at Climate Adaptation Services said they are working closely with extension workers and the meteorological office. The aim is to develop a website that visualizes the impact of climate changes to predict the future development of climate.

The research will at a later stage be extended to other counties, he said. It is funded by a European research program called Copernicus Climate Services that offers a data store for climate change at the global level.

“We use the data to analyse what will happen in the two counties and show whether there will be a change in the onset of the rain or longer dry periods,” he said.

Speaking at Kambiti area in Murang’a County on a benchmarking tour to learn about conservation agriculture, Goosen said they also want to learn about climate-smart agriculture and the interventions farmers can make to improve their farming and become more climate-proof and better prepared for the future. He lauded Kambiti farmers who have been able to turn an arid and barren area into a food basket saying their techniques should be aped countrywide.

About 4,500 farmers have been practicing conservation agriculture that involves heavy planting of trees, organic farming, conservation agriculture, and rainwater harvesting.

Farmers with a quarter acre of land have now been able to produce enough food for consumption and sale in a program initiated by the Anglican Development Services.

“What we’ve seen here is a very good example of farms that have already adapted to changing the climate,” he said.

Goosen said the research will be concluded in March Next year and will help establish a climate change atlas for the two counties.

He said the climate research centre at JKUAT will later develop the atlas further with the help of meteorological officers.

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