Climate change increases risks of droughts, floods and health problems

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Copyright: Teun Voeten/Panos

 

Climate change increases risks in slums

“Residents of Nairobi’s informal settlements live in unsafe, overcrowded and often unsanitary housing, and lack access to basic services.” Eric Odada, African Collaborative Centre for Earth System Science (ACCESS)

Speed read

  • In Nairobi, 60 per cent of residents live in informal settlements
  • Climate change increases risks of droughts, floods and health problems
  • Experts say partnerships with officials, residents and donors could solve issues

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The impacts of climate change pose a serious challenge to human well-being, economies and livelihoods, particularly in informal settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa, a workshop has heard.

Informal settlements are the fastest growing segment in Africa’s rapid urbanisation, with more than 60 per cent of the Nairobi population living in informal settlements, said Griffin Songole, the director of the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company Ltd in Kenya.

Songole spoke during the Climate Resilience in Nairobi’s Informal Settlements workshop organised in Kenya last month (10 December) by the Kenya-based non-governmental organisation Maji na Ufanisi (Water and Development) in partnership with the African Collaborative Centre for Earth System Science (ACCESS) and the University of Nairobi’s Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation (ICCA).

An informal settlement occurs when people create housing in an urban location without approval from officials, and has the potential to result in slums.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

To provide farmers with training and support to implement soil-saving techniques

Photo credit: Google

Farmer Kuria Samuel practices drip irrigation in the Tana River Basin, Kenya.

 

Africa’s first Water Fund

By Stephanie Malyon, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture’s (CIAT) Communication Specialist for Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Originally published on the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) blog on March 20, 2015.

Tackling rising threats to food security, water and energy supplies

Every rainy season Jane Kabugi’s home comes under attack. The torrential rain so desperately needed downstream to fuel Kenya’s rising electricity demands – and Nairobi’s water requirements – has literally been tearing her home and farm apart.

Jane Kabugi and her farm“Our soil is very soft. So when it rains, the rain tends to take the soil away,” says Jane Kabugi on her farm. Photo: Stephanie Malyon

“There was a time when this house of mine was almost gone; it was starting to crack. An engineer came and said ‘if you want to save your house you need to make a strong hold so that the soil can be held’,” she said.

Like 90 per cent of the one million farmers in Kenya’s Tana region, northwest of Nairobi, Jane’s land sits on a steep hillside with a 75 percent incline. She explains: “Our soil is very soft. So when it rains, the rain tends to take the soil away. If I put manure it takes it, if I put fertiliser it takes it.”

Far from just affecting farmer homes and livelihoods in one of Kenya’s most agriculturally productive areas, the knock-on effect downstream is threatening water and energy supplies. As torrents carry precious top soil away from farms into the watershed, the Tana River, which drives half of Kenya’s hydropower-generated electricity and provides 95 per cent of Nairobi’s water, becomes choked with sediment.

Today (20 March 2015), in a first for Africa, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and partners* including the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), launched a landmark initiative aimed at supporting farmers and upstream users, like Jane, to curb the soil erosion that leads to reduced water and heavy cleaning costs.

The Tana-Nairobi Water Fund is a public-private scheme uniting big business, utilities, conservation groups, government, researchers and farmers. It aims to increase farm productivity upstream, while improving water supply and cutting costs of hydropower and clean water for users downstream, and is designed to generate US$21.5 million in long-term benefits to Kenyan citizens, including farmers and businesses.

The Tana-Nairobi Water Fund is a public-private scheme uniting big business, utilities, conservation groups, government, researchers and farmers.

El Niño could boost agricultural production in Kenya

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Copyright: Arjan van de Merwe/UNDP

El Niño rains could be double-edged sword for Kenya

Gilbert Nakweya

“If [people in] such areas do serious farming during this season, they will increase the country’s agricultural productivity.” – Samuel Mwangi, Kenya Meteorological Department

Speed read

  • The El Niño-related rainfall is expected to peak this month
  • Experts say it could boost agricultural production and power generation
  • But it could also increase the spread of diseases such as malaria

Kenya should take advantage of the predicted El Niño-related rainfall expected to peak this month and extend to early parts of 2016, according to meteorologists.

Kenyan meteorologists say that although the rains will negatively impact on people and their livelihoods, the country should be prepared to reap the benefits of the rains.

“We have positives that Kenyans, especially those in the agricultural marginalised areas, should take advantage of,” said Samuel Mwangi, a meteorologist from the Kenya Meteorological Department.
Mwangi tells SciDev.Net that farmers in such areas as Mbeere, Makueni and Machakos which usually experience dry seasons, should tap into the rains and plant food crops.

“If [people in] such areas do serious farming during this season, they will increase agricultural productivity on their farms, hence improving the food security situation in the country,” explained Mwangi adding that the national and county governments should help farmers in these areas by providing farm inputs such as seeds.
Read the full article: SciDevNet

Drought and insurance in Kenya

Kenya Government launches insurance program to protect its northern frontier herders against catastrophic drought

by  – Written by Bryn Davies

Fred Segor, principal secretary in Kenya’s State Department of Livestock in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and member of the board of trustees of the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), recently announced that a large government-sponsored livestock insurance scheme would begin being implemented this October in Wajir, Turkana and Marsabit at a cost of Kshs80.9 million (about USD800,000).

Scenes of IBLI work in northern Kenya (photo credit: ILRI). After almost five years of implementing Index-based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) across northern Kenya, ILRI’ is delighted to partner the Government of Kenya and the World Bank in a new government scheme to scale up pastoral livestock insurance against drought. - https://ilriclippings.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/collageibliinnorthernkenya.jpg?w=500&h=432
Scenes of IBLI work in northern Kenya (photo credit: ILRI). After almost five years of implementing Index-based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) across northern Kenya, ILRI’ is delighted to partner the Government of Kenya and the World Bank in a new government scheme to scale up pastoral livestock insurance against drought. – https://ilriclippings.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/collageibliinnorthernkenya.jpg?w=500&h=432

Fred Segor said the cover would be escalated to cover 14 of Kenya’s northern counties, targeting 5,000 households in the short term, to help them cope with recurring drought.

William Ruto, deputy president of Kenya, lauded this pastoral insurance initiative, noting that it was a culmination of intense research by the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, the World Bank and ILRI to compensate farmers who buy insurance cover against the effects of drought.

Ruto pledged a further KShs200 million from the government towards the cover to hasten its expansion to all 14 counties of northern Kenya: Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Isiolo, Samburu,Garissa, Tana River, Lamu, Kajiado and Narok.

The new Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP) is essentially a scaling-up of an insurance product of ILRI’s, known as the Index-Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI), made possible through ILRI’s partnership with the World Bank Group and the Government of Kenya.

Kenyan food security endangered

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Hear how extreme weather events and climate change are damaging coastal ecosystems and local economies

Warmer oceans imperil Kenyan food security

by Sophie Mbugua

Kenya is still suffering from the weather phenomenon El Niño that hit it in 1997 and 1998. This severe example of the recurring Pacific Ocean event brought abnormally high rainfall and sea temperatures to Kenya.

Flooding irreparably damaged mangrove systems and higher ocean temperatures killed coral reefs, depriving many marine species of their breeding grounds and sources of food. Since then, fish numbers have fallen along the Kenyan coast. Those who earn a living from fishing have had to go further out into the ocean, spending more time but still ending up with lower catches.

And this situation could worsen as climate change increasingly warms the planet.

Read the full text: SciDevNet

To take a simple idea and adapt it into a solution for problems of drought and desertification

Photo credit: Takepart

Residents of the Kibera slum in Kenya tend to vegetables planted in sack gardens. (Photo: Tony Karumba/Getty Images)

Across Africa, a New Kind of Container Garden Is Changing Women’s Lives

Growing food in sacks uses fewer resources and less labor and provides high yields too.

Some people have the talent to take a simple idea and adapt it into a solution with far-reaching benefits. Take Veronica Kanyango of Zimbabwe, a grassroots organizer who works in home-based health care and hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. She’s managed to take a couple of bags full or dirt and turn them into an agrarian movement.

“You show her a sack garden, and she’s turned it into a network of women who are producing lettuce and tomatoes for the Marriott hotel,” said Regina Pritchett of the Huairou Commission, a nonprofit that works on housing and community issues for women across Africa.

Using bags of the sort you stuffed yourself in for a race on field day—which are filled with manure, soil, and gravel—sack gardening or farming has been successfully adopted in areas of Africa where agriculture faces distinctly different challenges. It’s proved an effective way to grow food in regions with drought as well as areas prone to flooding, in rural communities and in urban slums. At the Grassroots Academy coordinated by the Huairou Commission in the spring of 2014, Pritchett said, the concept exploded.

“Of all the practices in the room, that’s the one people were most excited about. There’s not a high cost to get started, you’re not waiting on someone to give you seed funding. You could grab a sack and do that tomorrow,” she said.

Read the full article: Takepart

Sorghum as fish feed

 

Kenyan farmers embrace improved sorghum cultivars and explore its use as fish feed

Farmers in eastern Kenya are taking to sorghum cultivation to tide over poor harvests of maize. Since many of the farmers are also into aquaculture, they are evaluating sorghum varieties which are suitable as fish feed.

Most famers experience food shortages due to their reliance on maize. But farmers who plant sorghum and pearl millet always get a harvest even with the lightest rains. These observations made over a period of time were confirmed by Mr Kyalo Mwengi and a group of farmers during a sorghum field day held on Mr Mwengi’s farm at Kiboko along the Kiboko River.

Apart from growing sorghum for food, Mr Mwengi and his group are members of the Kenya Aquaculture Association and own several fish ponds. However, they have experienced a shortage of fish feed and want to use sorghum in their fish feed formulations. The group which has already received a feed pelleting machine from the national government will work with ICRISAT and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to identify a variety suitable for fish feed.

 

Read the full story: ICRISAT

Africa’s biggest wind power farm

Photo credit: Quartz

Kenya’s wind farm station at Ngong Hills (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

Kenya is building Africa’s biggest wind energy farm to generate a fifth of its power

BY Tinashe Mushakavanhu

Kenya set in motion the construction of Africa’s biggest wind power farm this week, near Laisamis, 550km north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

Known as the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, the wind farm site covers 40,000 acres (162km2), which will be powered by the ‘Turkana Corridorwind.’ It is a low-level jet stream originating from the Indian Ocean and blows all year round.

The project will consist of 365 turbines and expected to achieve 68% load capacity factor, which will make it the most efficient wind power farm in the world.

It is one part of Kenya’s ambitious project to add 5,000 MW of power on the national grid in the next three years. Like many African countries Kenya has been primarily dependent on hydro and fossil fuels but wind energy is expected to insulate the country’s power tariff by providing a low cost and consistent power source.

Once the wind farm is complete, it is expected to generate about 20% of the country’s power.Kenya Power, a government entity, has signed an agreement to buy the power produced at a fixed price over a 20-year period so as to make electricity accessible to a majority of Kenyans.

Read the full article: Quartz

Smallholder farmers and research

Enhancing capacity of extension officers in Kenyan drylands

To bridge the gap between research and information dissemination to smallholder farmers, extension officers were trained on integrated agronomic management of chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, sorghum and finger millet for enhanced yields. The training was held from 9-12 June at Egerton University’s Dryland Research Training and Ecotourism Centre, Chemerron, located in the dryland county of Baringo.

Read the text: ICRISAT

Indigenous vegetables with higher levels of many nutrients

Photo credit: Nature

Pete Muller/Prime for Nature

Women in a Nairobi market sell African nightshade and other indigenous vegetables. Such plants have higher levels of many nutrients than are found in exotic crops such as kale and collard greens, which were brought to Africa by colonial powers and gained popularity because they were associated with high status.

The rise of Africa’s super vegetables

Long overlooked in parts of Africa, indigenous greens are now capturing attention for their nutritional and environmental benefits.

One lunchtime in early March, tables at Nairobi’s K’Osewe restaurant are packed. The waiting staff run back and forth from the kitchen, bringing out steaming plates of deep-green African nightshade, vibrant amaranth stew and the sautéed leaves of cowpeas. The restaurant is known as the best place to come for a helping of Kenya’s traditional leafy green vegetables, which are increasingly showing up on menus across the city.

Just a few years ago, many of those plates would have been filled with staples such as collard greens or kale — which were introduced to Africa from Europe a little over a century ago. In Nairobi, indigenous vegetables were once sold almost exclusively at hard-to-find specialized markets; and although these plants have been favoured by some rural populations in Africa, they were largely ignored by seed companies and researchers, so they lagged behind commercial crops in terms of productivity and sometimes quality.

Now, indigenous vegetables are in vogue. They fill shelves at large supermarkets even in Nairobi, and seed companies are breeding more of the traditional varieties every year. Kenyan farmers increased the area planted with such greens by 25% between 2011 and 2013. As people throughout East Africa have recognized the vegetables’ benefits, demand for the crops has boomed.

This is welcome news for agricultural researchers and nutritional experts, who argue that indigenous vegetables have a host of desirable traits: many of them are richer in protein, vitamins, iron and other nutrients than popular non-native crops such as kale, and they are better able to endure droughts and pests. This makes the traditional varieties a potent weapon against dietary deficiencies. “In Africa, malnutrition is such a problem. We want to see indigenous vegetables play a role,” says Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, a horticultural researcher at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Juja, Kenya, who is a major proponent of the crops.

Scientists in Africa and elsewhere are now ramping up studies of indigenous vegetables to tap their health benefits and improve them through breeding experiments. The hope is that such efforts can make traditional varieties even more popular with farmers and consumers. But that carries its own risk: as indigenous vegetables become more widespread, researchers seeking faster-growing crops may inadvertently breed out disease resistance or some of the other beneficial traits that made these plants so desirable in the first place.

Read the full article: Nature

First get information, then the seeds

 

Africa: New App to Connect Kenyan Farmers With Climate-Smart Seeds

By Chris Arsenault

EXCERPT

A new app launched in Kenya on Wednesday could help millions of farmers adapt to climate change by offering information on the best seeds for changing growing conditions, agriculture experts said.

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The free “MbeguChoice” app is the first tool of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, and was developed by a 25-year-old Kenyan software engineer. “MbeguChoice” means seed choice in Swahili.

It comprises an online database which is also available via a website, and could be expanded to other countries if its roll-out proves successful, officials behind the project said.

“The platform provides information on special characteristics (of different kinds of seeds) for drought tolerance, and the best altitude and area for growing a particular crop,”

Read the full article: allAfrica

Crucial role of private sector for smallholder farmers in Africa.

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Copyright: Jill Cairns/CIMMYT

Engaging key stakeholders to tackle agricultural issues

“In managing MLN (Maize Lethal Necrosis) sustainably, research scientists, academic institutions, the private sector, the civil society and smallholder farmers must all come together and jointly discuss the most effective solutions and then implement them in an organised manner.” by Gilbert Nakweya and Sam Otieno

Engaging stakeholders to help address Africa’s agricultural development challenges through smart and well-coordinated partnerships remains a major concern for researchers and policymakers.

We were, therefore, not surprised when this concern emerged again during a workshop held in Kenya this month (11-14 May) on Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) Disease Diagnostics and Management in Africa, where experts highlighted the crucial role that the private sector could play in tackling the challenges facing smallholder farmers in Africa.

At the workshop, we learned that MLN poses a major threat to achievingfood security in Sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers noted that MLN has made negative impact in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, with the potential to spread if not urgently managed.

Read the full article: SciDevNet