Experts call for suitable Climate Smart Agriculture policies as Kenya leads the way
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28 May 2018
Author :   Isaiah Esipisu
Venanzio Njiru on his farm : >> Image Credits by:Isaiah Esipisu

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) – It is a rainy season in Kenya, and the environment in many parts of the country including dryland areas is generally green. But two months ago in Kyenire village, Mbeere Sub-county of Embu in Eastern Kenya, it was Venanzio Njiru’s two acre farm that stood out as the only green spot surrounded by environment with dry grass and shrubs with brown leaves running into the horizon.

However, rainfall is for a short season in this part of the country because after it subsides towards the end of May as predicted by the Kenya Meteorological Department, residents may soon be subjected to another dry spell that may last between one and three years without the precious drops.

“This is how it has always been, hence a reason why I had adopt a smart way of surviving,” said Njiru, who has now invested in Climate Smart Agriculture through permaculture.

Using water piped from Thosi River some 10 kilometres away, the former street hawker in Mombasa has a mosaic of different types of crops that include cover crops, leguminous plants, fruit trees, among others intercropped with maize planted in zai-pits and even sugarcane. He also keeps cattle, indigenous chicken, goats, and despite of it being a dryland area, he keeps fish in his water storage ponds.

“Using very simple techniques, Njiru is one of the very few residents in this area who have sufficient food to feed their families, and have more for the market despite the tough climatic conditions,” said Wanjiku Wanjohi of Ishiara Parish, a Catholic church in Embu County.

The Parish is one of the faith based organisations on the ground, which have been interacting with residents especially smallholder farmers to identify best practices that could help in formulating a county climate change policy document that is responsive to the prevailing conditions.

The first ever climate change policy drafting initiative at the county level in Kenya is driven by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) in collaboration with Trocaire, and with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) where faith based organisations have been collaborating with community based groups and individuals to identify best practices at the grass roots level.

“Clearly, Njiru together with a few others have demonstrated that with access to water for irrigation, residents can easily adapt to climate change, an idea that we thought was an important factor to be included in the county climate change policy,” said Wanjohi.

Development of such policies dominated the annual summit on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) in Nairobi, where experts said that that was the only way of scaling up CSA, by moving from pilots to the implementation.

 “We already have enough ideas and innovations. What we lack in many African countries is the implementation framework,” said Dr Richard Mungang, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Africa Regional Climate Change Programme Coordinator.

“We need policies to govern Climate Smart Agriculture, because without policies, there cannot be development,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Richard Kamau the Executive Director at the Centre for Agriculture Networking and Information Sharing at the University of Nairobi, who said that data to guide formulation of such policies should be collected from farmers on the ground. “We also need involvement of the academia, the public sector and all other interested groups,” he said.

According to Edith Ofwona, a Senior Programme Specialist at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), there is evidence to show that CSA can reduce poverty and eradicate hunger, and so, there is need for countries to develop implementation frameworks as the way forward.

So far, following the Kenya’s example, Njiru’s practice has already been anchored in the draft climate change policy document, which urges the county government of Embu to support establishment of water harvesting infrastructure and mobilize community members to undertake household level water harvesting initiatives and interventions.

According to Obed Koringo of PACJA, the document has already been internalized by the county government, and it will soon be taken out for public scrutiny before it is converted into a legal instrument.

“We can only allocate funds for such climate change interventions only if they are anchored in some kind of law,” said Nicholas Ngece, the Chief Officer in charge of Environment at the County Government of Embu.

“Through policies, we will easily have the private sector working together with the public sector and the banking sector so as to stabilize markets and increase financing,” Dr Munang told delegates at the Nairobi CSA summit.

The other two counties that are leading the way in development of community based climate change policy in Kenya are Kitui and Tharaka Nithi Counties, where both are also using faith based organisations to access communities at the grassroots level.

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