Josephine Kirui

Questions and answers with Josephine Kirui

Josephine Kirui works for the International World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and serves as the coordinator of the feeds and feeding systems component for the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project. Ms Kirui is also facilitating the implementation of the MICCA pilot project in Kenya within the framework of EADD.

How will climate change affect the dairy industry in Eastern Africa, particularly smallholder dairy farmers? Have farmers noticed any changes already?

Climate change scenarios suggest that temperatures will increase that will affect rainfall patterns and create longer dry periods. Such a situation would affect the production of fodder crops, leading to a decline in the availability of animal feed. As a result, milk production may decline and farmers would see their incomes decline.

Farmers in the highlands of Eastern Africa have already noticed changes caused by higher temperatures. For example, fodder crops that had never grown in the cooler higher altitudes are now being cultivated. Napier grass is an example. Beans are another crop that has started to thrive in higher altitudes. Although these examples could be seen as a potential benefit of changing conditions, there are other crops that are not doing as well. At lower altitudes, drought is a major problem.

In the highlands, we are also seeing the increased occurrences of human and animal diseases, such as malaria and east coast fever, that are usually restricted to lower, warmer altitudes.

Farmers have also noticed that the onset of rains during the rainy season is being delayed and that the rains are more erratic. Farmers can’t plan the way they used to do 10 years ago and this makes things difficult.

What are your expectations for the MICCA pilot project? How will the project benefit farmers, and how do you see the results contributing to global efforts to confront climate change?

Ms Kirui standing beside a fodder tree hedge.

The main objective of EADD’s feeds and feeding systems component is to sustainably increase the production and quality of milk through improved feeds and nutrition. The MICCA pilot project will add value to the dairy development efforts by building farmers’ capacity to integrate climate-smart practices into their work. These practices will increase productivity, income and ecosystem resilience within smallholder farming systems and along the value chain and at the same time lower greenhouse gas emissions.

One way we hope to meet our goals is by increasing the amount of milk produced per animal. If dairy farmers can increase output with fewer animals, they can reduce their production costs. Reducing the number of yielding animals is a key way the livestock sector can reduce methane emissions.

By promoting the better management of manure we also hope to have an impact. We would like to see biogas derived from manure and provide energy for cooking, cooling, lighting and running processing equipment like fodder choppers and pulverizers. This clean energy would improve lives, save labour and make a real contribution to farmers’ incomes by reducing production costs. It would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We also want to establish the practice of planting trees for fodder as an economical and sustainable way of conserving the soil, making fields more fertile and sequestering carbon.

If these advances in sustainable smallholder dairy production spread throughout Eastern Africa, this will certainly contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change.

The 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP17) will be held in Durban, South Africa in November. What would you like to see come out of this conference?

At the Durban Conference, I would hope that discussions would lead to reaching meaningful and legally-binding agreements on climate change and that progress would be made toward negotiating a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

At the last Conference in Cancun, Parties agreed to establish the Green Climate Fund. I would certainly like to see progress made on clarifying how the Green Climate Fund will operate and how African farmers, especially those in Eastern Africa, can benefit from it.

Are there certain issues that you think are not receiving enough attention in global efforts to address climate change in agriculture? What are the key messages you would like to see communicated?

I think we need to emphasize the importance of improving our methods of monitoring and verifying greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that countries are not exceeding their agreed upon levels. We also need to recognize that the simple division between developing and developed countries is not enough. We need to have a more nuanced stratification system for determining commitments that reflects the different levels of development among countries. For example, China is not at the same stage of development as the countries of Eastern Africa. But the time has come for developing countries to commit themselves to setting and meeting realistic targets for reducing emissions.

We also have to review the current values given to carbon credits. Currently methane has a low value and this gives the livestock sector little incentive to cut emissions.

last updated:  Friday, January 11, 2013