Adapting to climate change in Taita Hills
Strategies to adapt to the effects of climate change are now necessary especially to the small-scale farmers practicing rain-fed agriculture, who are among those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Climate change has brought with it water scarcity, longer dry spells and late onset/early cessation of rainy seasons. The population globally is also growing, increasing the demand for water for agriculture and domestic use. Food security has been threatened in many parts of the world and Taita Hills in Kenya is not an exception.
The CHIESA Project of the African Insect Science for Food & Health (ICIPE) develops and shares adaptation measures with the farmers in its research areas to reduce their vulnerability and also improve food security. During the month of May, the project installed ten drip irrigation kits in Mwatate (low altitude); Wundanyi (mid altitude) and Werugha (high altitude zone) in the Taita Hills area in Kenya. Drip irrigation has been commended as one of the greatest innovations in agriculture. Plants are watered one drop at a time; no water gets wasted as runoff and all the water goes to the root of the specific plant where it is needed.
The process began with the farmers preparing the land,; then building a stand, one metre high, to hold the plastic tank. Once the tank and the gadgets were set up; holes were dug; manure or fertilizer applied, then seedlings planted. To promote food security, better nutrition and a source of income, experts recommend planting spinach, tomatoes, kales, carrots, broccoli, cabbage and onions.
The drip irrigation system requires regular maintenance to ensure that it lasts long and remains effective. This is done by regular cleaning of the disk filter with clean water and a brush, this can be done twice in a year or more frequently depending on the amount of impurities in the water. To minimize the formation of salt crust it is advisable to irrigate late in the evening or early in the morning when the rate of evaporation rates is lowest.
Drip irrigation can be regarded as a climate change adaptation strategy because it allows for the sufficient use of water and fertilizer or manure; the moisture content of the root zone is well maintained even when the temperatures are high; there is less erosion from runoff water; water is uniformly distributed to the individual plan therefore water is conserved. This form of irrigation is cost effective as it uses less pressure therefore less energy cost and it is not labour intensive.
Photo: Flickr/Peter Steward