Climate change raises average global temperatures and sea levels triggering major social, environmental and economic disruptions. Effects such as drought, increased temperatures and floods negatively impact lives, with human health increasingly put at risk.
The impacts of climate change in Kenya’s agriculture sector and farming communities are manifested through: extreme weather events that cause flooding, drought, landslides, strong winds, rising sea levels, seasonal weather variations, increased temperatures and gradual change in precipitation patterns. These impacts cause acute and chronic threats to agro-based livelihoods and lead to the destruction of fragile ecosystems. This is resulting in reduced yields and loss of income for farmers, food shortage and malnutrition, reduced quality of products and earnings in addition to growing post-harvest losses.
Kenya National Farmers’ Federation (KENAFF) has evolved a response to these phenomena that are impacting the social economic fabric: the KENAFF Farm Forestry and Afforestation Initiative, which aims to conserve agro-biodiversity and re-forest degraded lands to slow down the impacts of climate change globally. The initiative also envisages preserving soils and water locally as well as educates smallholder farmers, women, and the youth on the importance of planting trees to mitigate climate change, to provide them with improved nutrition from tree products and help reduce poverty in the country. The Initiative supports the Government of Kenya (GoK) to realize its goal of achieving 10% forest cover through planting about 2 billion trees between 2018 and 2022.
KENAFF iterates that the only pathway to achieve and exceed this target and, indeed, protect Kenya’s natural capital and combat climate change runs through farmers. To this end, KENAFF decided to support the government in achieving and exceeding the target over the next ten years and in perpetuity. The Federation targets to deploy her elaborate grassroots to national structure (ward to Sub-County to County and national levels) in forty-four counties of Kenya to establish a framework to conduct KENAFF National Tree Planting Weeks twice every year.
KENAFF also proposes a comprehensive action package. This involves the implementation of complementary practices: ecosystem-based adaptations, hybrid options and engineered solutions that include behavioural change measures, institutions and policy frameworks, as well as market-based solutions. For example, capacity building to promote learning, information sharing and awareness creation to influence behavioural change; lobbying for policies that put safety nets in place to support resilience and recovery after climate change events; improving awareness and access to climate information to promote learning and build resilience to climate change.
Climate-smart agricultural practices and sustainable land management practices such as soil testing, conservation tillage, on-farm forestry, soil conservation, etc. are promoted as well.
Other practices may include, but are not limited to, conservation agriculture (CA) to address declining soil fertility and the negative effects of climate change; drought, disease and pest resistant crops that are well adapted to local condition. Farmers are being mobilised to identify alternative livelihoods such as small ruminant farming and biofuel production to reduce domestic and international carbon emissions.
Implementation of the KENAFF Farm Forestry and Afforestation Regreening Initiative is improving the resilience of agricultural systems and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Planting trees on farms prevents environmental degradation, improves agricultural productivity, increases carbon sequestration, generates cleaner water, and supports healthy soil and healthy ecosystems while providing stable incomes and other benefits to human welfare. Through the initiative, local communities are provided with a sustainable supply of wood products. Livelihoods of women and the youth are improved through the sale of tree seedlings, tree products like fruits from established tree nurseries. Promotion of afforestation and farm forestry is improving vegetation cover in Kenya hence reducing pressure on woody resources.
Tree domestication is increasing the livelihoods of farmers as a profitable enterprise with a higher likelihood of realizing genuine livelihood. By aggregating into wood production, farmers are easily linked to traditional wood value chains leading to enhanced commercialization of farm forestry thus increasing income levels and improving rural livelihoods.
The KENAFF Farm Forestry and Afforestation Initiative is also contributing to more sustainable food systems through: conservation and restoration of agrobiodiversity and re-forestation of degraded lands; preservation of soils and water locally; enhancing improved nutrition security from tree products such as fruits; and reducing poverty levels in the county. The initiative contributes to Food and Nutritional Security (FNS) through the promotion of farm forestry that contributes to direct provision of tree foods such as fruits and leafy vegetables and staple crop production, and the provision of rich and nutritious fodder for livestock. Besides, the initiative contributes to raised income levels, improved resilience, and livelihoods of local communities through farm forestry that provides them with opportunities to participate in various enterprises like: establishment of tree nurseries for sale; as well as production and sale of timber, fruits, fodder, and fuelwood.
KENAFF has lead a very comprehensive initiative that clearly address climate- smart outcomes. Entering new agricultural related business and production models integrating trees allows diversification and income increases, directly benefiting farmers’ food accessibility and poverty alleviation, reaching overall food and nutritional security goals. This initiative also integrates a strong adaptation component, when farm forestry and afforestation activities are implemented, these practices have the potential to preserve and restore biodiversity dynamics enhancing the supply of regulating, supporting and provisioning agro ecosystem services, such as pollination (particularly important for fruit crops), pest and diseases regulation, erosion and water regulation, soil and nutrient cycling, and food and raw materials (wood), among others. These services are essential to increase farmers’ capacity to avoid, manage and overcome climate risk and hazards targeted in the project. Integrating trees in the food system generally stands for mitigation opportunities in the medium- to long-term, by enhancing the removal of Carbon from the atmosphere and storing this green- house gas into trees biomass and soil organic matter. A vibrant participation of KENAFF farmers and national stakeholders in capacity-building and awareness increase in technical and educational spaces —emphasizing in women and youth— for sharing information and exchanging experiences, is important to extend the initiative to more Kenyan counties as envisioned by the Federation.
This article is lifted from The Climakers Stories from the field: Volume 2