A climate smart approach to drought in Kenya’s arid lands
Originally published on the UN Women website
The climate in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) is changing, as prolonged droughts reduce the region’s agriculture and livestock production. Climate smart adaptations to farming are now building women’s resilience to climate shocks in the region, a precursor for protecting food security, water security and livelihoods.
“Before I returned [home], my mother was farming the ordinary way, growing maize and beans. In 2020, the drought dried out all the crops,” explains Julia Nyambura. In 2020 she returned to her family farm in Laikipia, in Kenya’s North Rift Valley region. “In 2021, the same thing happened, we got nothing. We planted and everything dried up. Before crops dry, elephants can also come and destroy everything and you’re back to zero.”
Laikipia is one of 23 counties considered prone to drought, according to Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority (NDMA). Its ASALs makes up over 80 per cent of the country’s land mass, equating to over 2 million severely food-insecure people in 2021. Moses Njagi has been working for the Ministry of Agriculture for more than 30 years and has seen significant changes in Laikipia.
“From 1983, when I started this work, the seasons were quite stable, now they are not. The rains have reduced or come at different times. It comes within a short time, leading to a prolonged dry spell. When you look at communities in ASALs, they are limited with resources and there is less funding. When we look at funds for water harvest and distribution, they are quite expensive. Literacy levels and knowledge of these techniques are also quite low. Capacity building should be given a high priority.”
Nyambura, chair of a local self-help group for farmers in her community, is not wasting time in taking the quarter-acre farm in a new direction. She has installed a water harvesting system, diversified her crops including the addition of non-edible crops – a type of germanium used in commercial cosmetic production – that are not sought after by elephants. She has also invested in new poultry species to boost profit for the farm.