Shifting weather patterns threaten food production. From the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, in the earth’s atmosphere to the rising sea levels. greenhouse gases have caused the earth’s climatic system to retain more energy resulting in extreme weather there by increasing wildfires. They also contribute to air pollution which in turn causes a disruption in food production and supply. The rapidly rising sea levels cause soil erosion, flooding, soil contamination with salt and loss of habitat of aquatic animals and plant. The high levels of salt in agricultural soil or irrigation water have made it difficult for salt sensitive plants and crops to absorb water and necessary nutrients resulting in suppression of growth and reduced yields.
Farmers in developing countries are vulnerable to climate change as a result of their over dependence on rain-fed agriculture, poor technology and high levels of poverty. The effects of climate change affect farmers’ ability to grow crops and keep livestock thus threatening food security. Extreme conditions such as floods and droughts change growing seasons and limit the availability of water leading to reduced productivity. However, despite these conditions and the fact that soil erosion has reduced the amount of land available for agriculture, farmers are under pressure to conserve water and use fewer agricultural inputs during production.
In Kenya, semi-arid areas are in danger of becoming arid and the arid areas have become drier such that no agricultural practices are taking place. Therefore, in order for farmers to meet the rising demand for food, they must adapt to the changes affecting their production and at the same time look for ways to mitigate these changes inclusive of the greenhouse gas emissions contributed by their agricultural practices. Adapting to climate change and adopting climate-smart practices will enable farmers and the general population thrive in the face of a changing climate.
How farmers can adopt to climate change
Strengthening flexibility should be the first step in tackling climate change since it involves the adoption of practices that will enable people to protect their livelihoods, in this case agriculture being the livelihood. It also involves ensuring food security by changing consumption patterns.
Reducing concentrated carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is a way of mitigating climate change. Studies have shown that vegetation and oceans can sink carbon dioxide. Growing trees on farms will aid in sinking carbon during the growing season into the soil where they are stored. Conservation tillage also increases carbon storage in the soil. Carbon in the soil increases soil quality. Oceans are also effective in absorbing carbon dioxide put in the air by people. More carbon in the soil and oceans means less atmospheric carbon.
Ecosystems play an important role in helping people adapt to climate change. Protecting the ecosystems by ending practices such as deforestation and restoring habitats can reduce the negative effects of climate change. Well protected forests reduce the risk of destructive wildfires which are large contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. Water bodies are a source of water during drought and plants growing in coastal saline like mangroves provide natural flood defenses.
Early warning system is a crucial tool that can be used to adapt to climate change. It should be accompanied by dissemination of reliable information and monitoring farmers. Being aware of the impacts of climate change on their production does not imply that farmers are also aware of climate-smart practices they can adopt. The high levels of poverty also limit their means to adopt these practices instead increasing their vulnerability to climate change. Solutions to these limitations will lead to the inclusion of even farmers from marginalized areas in tackling climate change.
Additionally, there is the need of extensive research on averting the catastrophes brought about by climate change especially food security. This research will aid in addressing any gaps and in designing policies that will be used to tackle climate change and enable people to transition to a low-carbon sustainable future.
By Kevin Koech – The Anglican Development Service – Central Rift
The Sustainable Diets for All Programme seeks to improve the national and local food systems in order to achieve a more sustainable, affordable, healthy, nutritious and affordable foods for low-income earners. The programme focuses on citizen participation, lobby and advocacy (influencing policies and practices of market and government actors) and strengthening of advocacy capacities of civil society actors in implementing countries.
In Kenya, Hivos is working with Building Eastern Africa Community Network (BEACON) as the implementing partner. BEACON is a network of organizations championing sustainable resource management, resilient livelihood systems, governance and economic justice. The Anglican Development Service – Central Rift (ADS – Central Rift) is part of the BEACON network