Droughts associated with climate change have become more pronounced in recent years, adversely affecting the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers and vulnerable communities in arid lands.
Climate Smart Agriculture seeks to address the challenges of food security and climate change. It includes techniques such as rainwater harvesting, small-scale irrigation, planting drought-resistant crops and Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), all aimed at increasing agricultural productivity, farmer income, build resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Irrigated agricultulture is widely considered a solution to food shortages and alleviating poverty. In this regard, the Kenyan government has set aside some Sh13.8 billion for irrigation in the 2015/2016 budget. Non-governmental organisations play a critical role in improving food security in the country by supporting and complimenting the government’s efforts.
For example, World Vision is implementing food security projects in 35 Area Development Programs (ADPs) or long-term development programs across the country. Many of these ADPs include substantial agricultural irrigation components that are implemented in collaboration with the government, World Food Program (WFP) and the National Drought Management Authority.
For example, the umbrella food assistance programme called the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations (PRRO) seeks to protect and rehabilitate livelihoods in the ASAL areas. PRRO operations in Baringo, Turkana and Moyale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta and Makueni is currently reaching 449,200 beneficiaries. The programme has had a significant impact on the effort to achieve food security.
In recent years, household food diversity, which is one of the measures of food security, has improved dramatically due to introduction of various crops such as maize, millet, sorghum, cowpeas and green grams, fruits and vegetables. World Vision’s Hunger Free campaign seeks to empower youth in rural, urban and fragile or refugee context to build economically viable and resilient livelihoods.
To achieve this goal we provide training, resources and mentorship to build sustainable food production systems, improve incomes and increase savings. Irrigated agriculture with adequate support systems including access to inputs, credit, seeds, fertilizer and downstream markets has the potential to increase incomes of millions of rural poor in Kenya.
In spite of the progress being made so far, there is clearly much more yet to be done to strengthen livelihoods and resilience among the most vulnerable. Greater dialogue among stakeholders on important issues affecting the agricultural sector and in particular irrigated agriculture is necessary. Most rural communities have little knowledge about the national irrigation policies.
There is need for public education about these policies which should form part of the capacity building plan for social accountability. The composition of the different structures involved in irrigation development and implementation is also unclear. The irrigation policy document, for example, is not clear on how community land taken over for irrigation schemes will be compensated.
This may be a source of conflict. There is also need to document impact and lessons learned, educate rural communities on rural commercialisation using well researched and proven approaches such as local value chains development and set up clear national and county structures to make Kenya food secure. —Dickens Thunde is the National Director, World Vision Kenya.