What does a climate-smart farm look like?

Source: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) - Wed, 9 Jul 2014 11:00 AM
Author: Cecilia Schubert, CCAFS
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Lower Nyando in western Kenya is one of a growing number of climate-smart villages set up in six locations across East Africa by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Here farmers test new practices to cope with climate impacts, while showing others how they too can reap the benefits.

Climate-smart agriculture has the potential to help farmers adapt to and mitigate climate change, while boosting yields and incomes. The farm activities have a research purpose too - to see which practices and activities work where and in what climate.

The project is being implemented by the CCAFS East Africa program, CGIAR research centres such as the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), ViAgroforestry, Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI), World Neighbors, Kenya's ministries of livestock, development and agriculture, community-based organisations and the private sector including Magos Farm Enterprises.

  • Through inter-cropping maize and sorghum plants with fruit trees, John Oboum has been able to boost soil fertility and yields on his plot. He sells the fruit to earn extra money, as well as fruit tree seedlings to neighbours, advising them how to plant.

  • Together with the International Livestock Research Institute and World Neighbors, CCAFS is collaborating with Oboum and other farmers to test hybrid sheep and goat breeds. These animals are more tolerant of heat, mature faster and produce milk. Oboum now has milk both to give to his children and sell. He is being trained by CCAFS on what to feed his animals, which vaccinations they need, and how to care for the offspring. He reports back on how the animals are doing, so researchers can document if these hybrids might be a working climate solution for Kenyan farmers.

  • A key feature of the climate-smart sites is that they are open to visitors wanting to learn more about different agriculture practices. John is very enthusiastic about teaching others. “Everything I do here is like an open book. Anyone is welcome to come and ask me questions. I am happy to help,” he says, smiling.

  • Edward Ouko is another climate-smart farmer from the Nyando area. He is growing drought-tolerant and fast-maturing sorghum that he says is doing really well on his plot.

  • Apart from sorghum, Edward is also experimenting with hybrid watermelons, tomatoes, green gram and beans, investigating which hybrid varieties perform best in the region’s increasingly hot and dry climate. Edward’s many experiments could hold the key to long-term solutions for farmers in the area.

  • Farmer Peris Owiti receives training and seeds from CCAFS. She champions climate-smart farm practices on her demonstration plot, which she shows to female community members. Since February, she has been leading work to test drought- and pest-resistant seeds, as well as fast-maturing hybrid crops, comparing them to the performance of local varieties.

  • “It is important to include female champion farmers within the climate-smart village project, to ensure that women get role models to look up to, and a natural informant within their own networks,” says CCAFS East Africa gender expert Mary Nyasimi. Owiti has so far trained five women in her area to test drought-resistant crops, and her ambition is to reach many more.

  • To support ongoing farm initiatives by the Lower Kamula Youth Group, CCAFS and local partners looked into constructing a small greenhouse that could help the group adapt to an increasingly variable climate. Covered with polythene and combined with drip irrigation lines, this greenhouse saves water while protecting crops against flooding and drought, and offers better control of pests and diseases.

  • The first crop grown in the greenhouse was tomatoes. After harvesting, a plump tomato can be sold for 5 KSH ($0.05) at the market, adding up to a secure income for the group. Here youth group members dismantle tomato plants, making room for new crops.

  • Outside the greenhouse the group is testing hybrid crops, such as drought-resistant Sukuma Wiki, a nutritious green vegetable, green beans and sorghum, using drip irrigation.

  • The group was also exploring the idea of fish farming, so CCAFS helped it get connected with partners to combine the local water pan with a fish pond, now holding 1,000 male tilapia. Depending on their size, the fish can be sold for 300-600 KSH ($3.5-7).

    Making sure the fish get the right quality food and nutrients is important. CCAFS helped train the group on what to feed the fish and when, as well as how to integrate water management with fish farming.

  • The group has done very well, earning $240 in one year. The ambition now is to help others in the community make a prosperous living out of farming by training them in “climate-smart” activities too.

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