How resilient farmers are beating climate change.

With the effects of a changing climate being deeply felt, farmers in Machakos County are adopting ingenious ways of coping with the vagaries of the weather.
Earlier this year, the national government declared the drought that was ravaging the country a national disaster, said to have been worse than the severe 2010/2011 drought. Twenty-three counties in the arid and semiarid areas were worst hit, with reports saying that more than 300,000 children were suffering from acute malnutrition.
Machakos is always one of the most affected year after year. However, farmers are literally taking the fight against drought into their own hands. They are teaching one another simple and affordable environmentally friendly and ecological ways to cope with the hard times.
They have formed self-help groups and gather for training sessions organised by a community-based organisation, Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE), in conjunction with Greenpeace Africa. They meet to share ideas and keep tabs on one another’s progress in farm development.
They are also taught by specialists and consultants in their fields. According to ICE executive director Martin Muriuki, despite the severe drought, the farmers’ livelihoods have not been severely affected.
“The enthusiasm to learn is an indicator of how they appreciate the impact of the switch to climate-resilient and naturefriendly farming,” he says.
On this hot April afternoon and as rain laden clouds hovered in the sky warning of an imminent downpour, more than 100 enthusiastic farmers were seated in a tent, with eyes glued to a whiteboard.
Some had notebooks and were taking notes. The venue was a homestead in Kyeleni Ward, Matungulu Sub-County.
“The farmers are taught about water harvesting, agro forestry, making manure, methods of fighting soil erosion and crop diversification. They also learn about dryland farming, for instance, the use of Zai pits, which retain moisture and manure in the soil,” says Mr Joseph Katuku Mbuvi, an agricultural extension officer at Kyeleni.
The training is part of the Farmer2Famer drought resilience programme started by the ICE. Farmers learn about rainwater harvesting methods such as terracing to conserve soil moisture and the use of ditches to channel run-off water onto farms.
They are also taught about Zai pits, which retain water and recharge the soil with extra moisture. They are also urged to grow trees such as gravellier, sesbania, and Lucerne.
“The trees are a source of fodder, firewood and also fix nitrogen in the soil,” says Mr Mbuvi, adding that the farmers are encouraged to diversify their crops and use minimal chemicals or none at all.
Full story- Issue 36 of Smart Farmer Magazine

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