Farmers in Taita Receive Training on Conservation Agriculture and Integrated Pest Management

The effects of climate change on food security and water supply are alarmingly visible, especially in the developing world where many small-scale farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture for food production.

One of the most widely recognised components for response to climate change is adaptation, and the extent to which small-scale producers feel the effects of climate change and variability largely depends on their level of adaptation. Additionally, the degree of vulnerability and adaptive capacity of an individual or household determines adaptation.

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Farmers participate in planting during demonstrations, and later sit in for a theoretical session at the Werugha demonstration site in Taita Hills, Kenya.

Ongoing study by Lilian Kwamboka, a Master of Science student within the CHIESA Project, evaluates the effectiveness of conservation agriculture (CA) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as possible tools for adoption by farmers in adapting to climate change and variability.

Aptly dubbed “Assessment of Conservation Agriculture (CA) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a Possible Adaptation Tool to Climate Change for Farmers in the Taita Hills”, Lilian’s research will be carried out in the Taita hills, starting from Mwatate at latitude 3°30”S and longitude 38°22’7’’E to Vuria at latitude 3°25’S and longitude 38°17’5’’E. 

Data on farmers’ vulnerability will be collected through administration of household questionnaires and focus group discussions with key informants and household heads, in order to evaluate socio-economic factors that make them vulnerable. Environmental context data will also be collected on incidences of major crop pests and diseases in the area, methods used for soil conservation, seed selection and farming practices used, in order to identify the existing gaps to adaptation.

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Lilian Kwamboka, an MSc student undertaking research within the CHIESA Project, facilitates a session with farmers who later participate in setting up different treatments at the demonstration sites.

Experimental plots with common beans as the test crop have been set-up to serve as learning points for farmers on appropriate conservation agriculture CA and IPM practices. Data will be collected on biomass yields from the different treatments, which will entail an absolute control, farmer practice plot and minimum tillage with IPM system. This will facilitate comparison of common bean biomass production under the use of different agricultural practices thus providing a pointer to the effectiveness of CA and IPM in reducing farmers’ vulnerability to climate change and variability.

The whole idea of demonstration plots is to enlighten farmers on how to go about CA and IPM, discern the yield differences, and try it on their own farms. A major output of Lilian’s research so far is continuous field demonstrations in Werugha, Wundanyi and Mwatate areas of the Taita hills. These demonstrations began in April, 2014. For each demonstration site, four treatments were performed on separate plots, namely:

  1. Conservation agriculture (CA) plot
  2. A farmers’ practice plot with manure
  3. A farmers’ practice plot with fertilizer, and
  4. A control plot.

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Farmers in Werugha (left) using plant remains to mulch one of the demonstration plots, while farmers in Wundanyi take biomass measurements from the different treatments at their demonstration site.

The different treatments are meant to facilitate comparison of biomass yields from the CA plots and the farmers’ practice plot; this way farmers can personally perceive any differences, and evaluate whether this new sustainable approach can give them better yields. This approach that has been proven to sustain agricultural production even during unpredictable weather patterns arising from climate change. Common beans were used only as a test crop but the approach is suitable for all crop types.

At the end of the demonstrations farmers were given bean seeds and fertilizer, and encouraged to apply their newly acquired knowledge on their own farms. This action is in line with one of CHIESA’s expected outcomes; to develop, test and disseminate climate change adaptation tools, options and strategies at the farm level.

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Farmers prepare plots for the different treatments to be set up, and (right), a mulched plot at the Werugha demonstration site.

 

This approach that has been proven to sustain agricultural production even during unpredictable weather patterns arising from climate change.
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