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On Africa’s farms, the forecast calls for adaptation and innovation

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I sowed drought-tolerant seeds, fed and weighed chickens, and used my phone to monitor weather forecasts and local crop prices.

These are some of the chores I was given when I visited Mary Mathuli, a smallholder farmer in rural Kenya.

To better understand how farmers like Mary are living in the face of climate change, I stopped by her home in Makueni County, southeast of Nairobi, during a recent trip to Kenya. rice field.

I arrived expecting to hear her talk about the record droughts and declining yields that many farmers across Africa are experiencing.

Instead, to my surprise, she guided me to her fields and promised me that despite the drastic changes in rainfall and weather patterns, I would continue to grow crops and generate income to support my family. He showed us the innovations that make it possible.

A natural teacher, Mary encouraged me to learn by doing. She put me to work so I could see how these new agricultural inputs and practices could make a huge difference in their lives.

This experience taught me some important lessons.

First, my farming skills need to be tweaked a bit, like holding a chicken and swinging a hoe.

Second, and more importantly, it was a personal reminder of how resourceful and resilient African small farmers like Mary can be. They are developing new skills and adopting new technologies to adapt to some of the harshest conditions for growing crops and raising livestock.

To be clear, African farmers face major challenges from climate change. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only about 4% of global carbon emissions, yet the continent bears the brunt of the impacts of climate change. Climate-related losses on many African farms are more than double her losses seen globally. In Makueni County, where Mary farms, corn yields have declined since 1994, largely due to changing weather.

More innovation is needed to help smallholder farmers in Africa meet the threats posed by climate change, but Mary and other farmers in Kenya are working hard to reduce crop losses and keep their farms thriving, even in extreme weather. It employs some incredible new tools and practices to help.

Chicken: My first stop at Mary’s farm was her chicken coop, and she quickly handed me a large hen. Chickens serve as a kind of hedge against climate risks as they can provide a reliable source of income even during periods of extreme weather. She sells adult chickens for eggs and meat at the local market. She also sells her chicks so other farmers can raise their own flocks. In addition, chickens (both eggs and meat) provide valuable nutrition for the family and are especially important for children.

But she added that adult chickens can only be sold if they weigh about 1.5 kilograms.She asked me to determine the weight of the chicken in my hand. I felt that I was able to do it. Luckily I was right.

Chickens serve as a kind of hedge against climate risk for many farmers like Mary. It is a valuable source of income and nutrition for Kenyan families, regardless of extreme weather.

Drought-tolerant seeds: Next we went out to Mary’s field. So she handed me a bag of seeds that had been modified to withstand extreme weather conditions. Some of the most successful breeds have been developed by US researchers. International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centera great organization that is part of a global partnership called CGIAR focused on improving food security. Other drought tolerant varieties have been developed by local partners such as: Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)also had the pleasure of visiting in Nairobi.

Mary uses drought-tolerant corn and bean seeds. I helped her dig a square planting hole about a foot deep that conserves rainwater. The seeds were then dropped, covered with soil, watered, and a thin layer of straw added on top to provide protection from the heat.

Mary taught me how to sow seeds in a water-saving way.

Drought-tolerant seeds help farmers ensure crop performance in the face of changing climatic conditions.

Mary taught me how to sow seeds in a water-saving way.

Drought-tolerant seeds help farmers ensure crop performance in the face of changing climatic conditions.

cell phone: Asked about other innovations that have helped her, Mary pulls out her cell phone. It is an important tool for farmers to increase productivity and increase their income through access to critical agricultural information and services. She directed me to an app on her phone that allowed me to check the local weather. Local weather forecasts are common in most parts of the world, but in rural Kenya and other remote parts of Africa, this vital information can be difficult to obtain. Farmers can also use mobile phones to check market prices for crops and livestock, obtain knowledge and technical support to improve farm management, and access financial services and insurance. increase.

I wanted to know how important mobile phones are to a farmer’s success. Like many farmers, Mary uses her cell phone to check things like the weather and market prices for her crops.

As farms go, Mary’s farm is fairly small. Yet she has packed many of her activities into this space, growing food crops for commercial and subsistence consumption, and raising poultry and livestock.In sub-Saharan Africa, more than half the population lives in engaged in agriculture. Together, they produce about 80% of the continent’s food supply. And most of the people doing the arduous farm work, like the chores I did, are women.

I was impressed with Mary’s entrepreneurial spirit and optimism. She seemed to take every opportunity to experiment with new techniques and agricultural practices. That’s one of the reasons she trained as a model her farmer and her Village Based Advisor. Grain Producers Association, an organization that works with smallholder farmers to help improve their productivity. In this role, Mary provides guidance to hundreds of farmers in her community, showing them how to use drought-tolerant seeds, raise chickens, and adopt other climate-adaptive farming strategies.

She is clearly doing a good job in this role, as over 90% of the farmers in her area have embraced one of the new adaptation techniques.

It’s been raining the last few months, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the seeds we planted with Mary are doing. I can’t imagine them being in better hands than her.

Thank you for visiting, Mary!

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