Thursday, August 27, 2009

Climate Change And Land Cultivation In Kyuso District

Kyuso District is located in the Eastern parts of Kenya, where drought is one of the main problems affecting farming processes. According to the history of community members, the area used to receive enough rainfall and there were no drought problems. Food in the farms was doing well and there were minimal crop pests and diseases. But the rains have been reducing each passing year and currently the rains have become so scarce and unpredictable. This factor affected food production and as a result, subjects members of the community to food dependency.

However, the government, NGO`s like ACTION AID KENYA and ALIN have initiated alternative farming methods to enable the community cope with the changing climate.

Kyuso is a sub-marginal area with very high temperatures and very little rainfall of about 325mm per year. Since 2002 the area has been receiving two types of rains: short rains in April and long rains in November. Farmers’ were well versed with these seasons so that they could cultivate their land and plant on time to catch up with rains. However, since December last year (2008) it has been different. In December, a period when they expected long rains, they received rains for only two days. In April 2009, the shot rains failed as well despite the fact that farmers had prepared their farms for planting.

Despite the fact that there was rainfall. Farmers were always caught unawares. The rains would come shortly and by the time they start cultivating just after planting, the rains would disappear. These always left farmers disappointed. In such situations farmers were left with irrigation as the only alternative to turn to, which as well is a problem.

After the rain season, the rain water is normally collected at Kyuso rock, where small dams were constructed by a Danish project. This water is pumped at the water point where every member of the community can access and use it for their daily activities. The water point is located at the market center where some community members are forced to trek more than twenty kilometers to the access it. Only people with donkeys, motorbikes and vehicles can access the water since it’s hectic to carry water on the head and walk over 20kms.

Most people in Kyuso are poor and most of them cannot afford even a donkey. One donkey retails at 6,000Kshs. and above. Therefore they resort to buying water from donkey carriers and vehicles that transport water from the water points to the community at a fee of 10Kshs per jerrican. Water from the water points serves the community at an average of three months and the dams dries up. Ones it’s finished, the water suppliers are forced to travel long distances over 30 kms. in search of water, while poor people are forced to borrow donkeys from neighbors to search for water which in return they have to give half of the water to the donkey owner. Here the water prices rises to 30Kshs. Per Jeri can.

Problems incurred due to lo rainfall.

Low rainfalls leave crops immature. These impacts into funny pests and diseases, wilting of some crops and harvesting of immature crops that could easily develop afflatoxine.The farmers therefore produce very small amounts of food or nothing at all. Kyuso community grows peas, green grams, cowpeas, cotton, millet, sorghum, and fruits. When these foods fail, farmers incur very high loses.

During a farmers training by the government DASS initiative, the Kyuso fruit growers commented that they can no longer keep farm records. This is because of the high losses that they incur. They confessed that they prefer, staying in darkness about the amount of losses than counting and knowing the exact loss. They believe that without records, they easily forget about their losses and this help them maintain the spirit of trying to plant again in the next season despite losses.

Several people have tried digging boreholes without succession. They dig more than 70feets without reaching the water level of which most people give up. Madam Teresia Kathini, a fruit grower in Kyuso District, Kyuso Division, in Kyuso area dug her borehole up to 67feets without reaching the water level. Counting on labour and other costs that she had lost, she gave up.

Odilla Ndhambi of Kyuso District, Kyuso Division, in Mikwa area, dug down to 87fts. She managed to reach the water level but the water has high salinity thus not good for crops management.

Farmers are investing a lot of labour in farming activities but they incur more of losses.


With assistance of the Ministry of Agriculture, ALIN and other organizations; farmers in Kyuso District are now implementing alternative farming methods to cope with the climate changes and its problems.

Water harvesting

They harvest rain water by the construction of tanks to trap roof water. This water is normally kept specifically for drinking.

They also harvest the run off water from the roads and farms through the construction of underground tanks. These tanks are big enough to store enough water. This water is normally used for irrigation.

Through these methods, they are able to tap enough rainfall water run off to sustain them longer.

Farmers are as well learning how to treat saline water to make it necessary for irrigation. The little water they get from boreholes is processed using charcoal. Charcoal traps all carbon dioxide producing safe water for irrigation.

Farmers have learnt early planting methods. They cultivate their lands and plant one month earlier. Here the outer cover of the seed is loosened so that by the time it rains, the shoot comes out easily and it grows very fast to meet the rainfall deadline.

Farmers are also encouraged by the ministry of Agriculture to plant short range crops, like sorghum, cotton and cowpeas. These crops grow within a short period and therefore are less likely affected by inadequate rainfall.

The ministry has as well identified crops that can do better in the area and encourage farmers to plant them. For example fruits like pawpaw, mangoes, and passion fruits. Also crops like sorghum, green grams and millet. Farmers are therefore encouraged to focus on this type of crops.


Through these methods of farming, the community and the ministry of agriculture have been able to discover that fruits are the best to cultivate in the area especially mangoes and paw paws despite the fact that they take long to mature, they rarely lead to total loss as a result of lack of rainfall.


The government and other organizations dwell on the recent rainfall pattern during the discussion of these alternative farming methods. Buy the time they come up with suitable methods, the climate changes again disrupting the whole activity. Erratic rainfall has thinned down to no rainfall at all.

In the beginning of this year (2009) farmers prepared for short rains of April with assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture. In March they cultivated their lands and planted, targeting the April rainfall now that the long December rains missed. Unfortunately, the April rains failed again, its now June 2009 and still no sign of rain, seeds are still in the soil, farmers have lost hopes and they cant predict when rains will come again and whether their seeds still survive in the soils. All these are in vain and leave everybody in question: where are we heading to?

“I no longer talk about rains; we have left it all to God. This year survival is either by relief food or death” said Mr. Mwangangi.

“As much as I am teaching Business plan, you should understand that these lies under commercial farming. Now tell me, if you have failed to achieve subsistence farming, how will you achieve commercial farming? Said Regina: Agricultural Officer during DASS business plan training of Kyuso fruit growers.

“It’s not our fault teacher, its nature that has taken away all the rains leaving us in suspense. We no longer have hopes.” Answered Madam Jennifer Marete


Therefore as much as people in Kyuso community try to implement the alternative methods, the more the climate worsens leading to more losses. These leave people in confusion, the goodness with Kyuso farmers is that they keep on trying in every season hoping for the best but all that comes out is loss. They have adapted to losses and now dwell on fruit growing referring to crop farming as a risk.

What Kyuso residents say about climate change.

By John Njue

Water is life, that is one fact that we can never over emphasize and both human beings and animals cannot survive without it. All the same, most arid and semi arid regions in Kenya continue to experience severe water shortages and as a result, there have been many assumptions as to what is causing the water shortages. To the people of Kyuso which is an arid and semi-arid area, they have attributed the changes in water levels and water shortages to climate change.

Climate change is as a result of many great factors including the internal variability in climate systems. Some of the human activities practiced in this area are threats to the climate and as a result lead to change in climate conditions and weather patterns. Tree cutting for charcoal burning is a major practice in this area. Kyuso district is located in Eastern province in Kenya; a distance of 60km from Mwingi town. Mwingi town is 238km from Nairobi city and one of the districts where there is severe reduction in indigenous trees.

The district covers a total area of 10030.30km2 with the population of 341571 citizens. The district is divided into four divisions namely Kyuso, Tseikuru, Ngomeni, and Mumoni.

The residents of all this divisions seem not to understand the effects of cutting trees and although efforts have been put by various Government ministries and Non-Governmental Organizations to enlighten them on the effects of deforestation, a number of them are still doing it. They sell the charcoal they burn and the 90kgs sack is sold at only 200 Kenya Shillings , this is very little money and as a result the locals are forced to burn more trees so as to get more charcoal and in return more money to sustain their families.

Effects of Climate change may not be realized very soon in Kyuso district if efforts are not put to enlighten the residents. Most of the residents are oblivious of the harm they are causing and most of them argue that the change in climate is as a result of natural causes that cannot be reversed and all they can do is let nature take its course.

The possible reason as to why the effects are not realized is that the current state of climate does not immediately reflect the input; it moves slowly and has a time tag in its reaction to the input. For example; years of dry conditions as experienced in Kyuso may do no more than cause the drought according to the residents. With effective capacity building and mobilization the resident will soon realize their contribution to climate change; it might be quite late and the harm will have already been done but as they say; it’s never too late.

The effects of climate can also be seen when you look keenly on the vegetation there is in our forests/bush. A change in type of the tree and vegetation that used to grow is an indicator that there is something changing .In the days of our forefathers the vegetation used to grow very thick and the trees would grow to their maximum height but now the vegetation has changed to scrubs, thicket and scanty trees. The distribution and coverage of vegetation occurs due to change of climate patterns which is much obvious.

To what extent the plant life changes, thrives and dies depends largely on the people’s contribution to curb this disaster of climate change. Tree planting as the ground cover may result in growth of other improved species due to micro-climate created by the trees. Tree cutting for non proper use may instead results to vegetation stress, rapid plant loss and desertification.

It is my urge and request to all climate change stake holders to approach the people of Kyuso district so that they may embrace change and conserve their forest. Tree planting should be encouraged and due to economic base of this area, the tree should be provided too. Embassies should be laid on the plantation of indigenous tree as opposed to exotic ones which requires a lot of water which is not available in this area.

Climate Change and Religion in Kyuso

By john Njue
It is said that there has been gradual change in the rainfall patterns since 1997 after the El-nino rain. The residents say that there has been unpredictability and uncertainty of the climate. Research has found that climate change has got a lot of effects/impacts and people are trying their level best to adapt to these changes.

Literally there are some factors that shouldn’t have been compared whatsoever. Climate change and religion is one of the factors. Climate change seems to be very different from the latter .Climate change is affecting religion as an adaptation strategy. One of these is an atmospheric and another one is a social factor.

Kyuso District is one of the Districts in Eastern Province of Kenya, where drought is one of the main problems affecting the farming process. The District borders Kitui district to the south, Mwingi district to the west, Mbeere and Tharaka to the north and Tana River district to the East. The District covers an area of approximately 4814.9 kilometer square

According to the 1999 population census data, the district has a population of about 303,828 persons. The district was said to have a population density of 30 persons per km square in 1999. People from this area live away from town and therefore the population density of Kyuso market is expected to be lower.

Apart from the district having less population there has been an emergence of numerous churches. In Kyuso market which is one (1) kilometer in diameter there are over 10 churches. The interior of the district such as Twimyua, Mataka, Nguni, Kamuwongo, Mumoni, Katse, Tseikuru and Kimanago has got other churches and branches of churches found in the market. The people who live in the market are people from other areas of the country. These people are working in Government ministries, Parastatals, Non-governmental organizations and Community Based Organizations. The churches found here are classified as Protestants, catholic, Pentecostal and evangelical churches. Some of these institutions are weak because of lack of funding

In the time of our grandfathers, family members used to be very busy in their farms, hunting, Weaving, modeling and grazing. Due to climate change there has been extensive drought in Kyuso, lack of pasture and wild animals have migrated due to destruction of their habitat .The farm animals also reduced in numbers due to killing and slaughtering by residents for meat in their homes. Due to reduction of these activities the people have become idle.

As an adaptation to climate change effects, Kyuso residents have thought if they stay near their God everything will be okay. Most of the people from this area have lost hope and therefore have no otherwise but to join churches; it’s their assumption that when the almighty lord will return, they should be found holy. The community believes that the extensive drought is an indication that the end of the world is near.

Due to inadequate rainfall, levels of poverty in Kyuso have gone high because most of the residents are farmers and their farming activities have been affected. As a result, people have come up with different income generating activities as an adaptation to climate change. Many people have started churches not as social/religious sites but income generating sites. Pastors/priests and fathers are doing their level best to market their churches so as to attract more ‘customers’. Mediums like brochures, fliers, and door to door initiatives are used. The idea behind this is the offertory that they will receive. The more the number of church followers, the more the offertory they give which in most instances is usually money.

However much the people are starting churches as a coping strategy, there has been a big challenge of inadequate infrastructure in the area. Kyuso district has an undeveloped road network and hence making traveling or moving of goods and services from one place to another difficult. The main road serving Kyuso is Mwingi-Tsiekuru road which is an all weather road with a lot of corrugation. The other road networks are worse than this .The church might be a good idea after all but there might be inaccessibility due to poor infrastructure.

Due to increase in temperature as a result of climate change, shelters are usually very hot. The average day temperature in Kyuso ranges from 230C- 42OC. Due to extreme temperatures in churches during the day, worship and prayer meeting are organized at night. The meetings start at 6.30pm and end at 2.00am and sometimes go on until the following day. This is an adaptation mechanism to cope with extreme temperature.

Open air fellowship locally known as “kesha” have become very common in this area. In the evenings, the congregation gathers in an open place usually along the road for prayer/worship .Men, women, youth and children inclusive worship through out the night in the open. This open air meetings have brought about the issues of prostitution. Despite the fact that the night is the best time for these activities, some men, women and children have taken an advantage of these opportunities for practicing prostitution for cash. As a result of climate change there has been a reduction in farm/livestock productivity and therefore prostitution is mistaken for an income generating activity here.

Climate change has brought about a lot of effects. These effects and impacts are the cause of the daily problems we experience. Climate change is already here with us, we are experiencing the effects and people should encourage efficient consumption of energy as an option to limit the emission of carbon in the air.

In the issue of emergence of churches; the government should provide a regulatory framework to people starting new churches and denominations. Conditions should be put in place to avoid business in churches although this is an adaptation strategy among the people of Kyuso. People should develop better adaptation strategies .Ability to shape or respond to the change is the best way, where people develop positive ways of living.

Climate change increases food insecurity in Kyuso, Kenya

Since 2006, the rains in Kenya’s eastern province have become less reliable. The March and April rains arrive later, and the season is much shorter. In 2008, there were only four days of rain. People living here rely on seasonal rivers to provide water for irrigation, livestock and domestic uses but these have mostly dried up, leading to water and food shortages.

In Kyuso, a village in Eastern Province, many farmers’ crops have failed due to the lack of rain. Even millet, which is drought resistant and among the most commonly grown crops in the area, failed in 2008. Livestock farmers also suffer because there is not enough fodder or water for all their animals. But they are reluctant to sell animals as the prices have been very low since the end of 2008.

Imported food

As recently as 2005, though there was inadequate rainfall the farmers harvested a lot of green grams, millets and some maize. Farmers sold their surplus produce which includes Green gram and Maize to Kenya’s Grain and Cereal Board Distribution Centre in Kyuso at Kshs 35 and kshs17per kilogram respectively. The kyuso residents sold millet to the local markets at kshs17 per kilogram since the cereal and produce board didn’t order for it. But due to the failure of crops locally, people now have to buy food at very high prices.

A one kilogram bag of maize flour cost 20 Kenyan shillings (Ksh) in July 2008; by March 2009, the price had increased to 70 Ksh. This was due to both to extended drought in this area and the political turmoil that affected the country as a whole in the early 2008. Most of the maize in Kyuso is imported from South Africa, and thus it is more expensive.

In March 2009, the Centre was selling 500 bags of maize per day to 300households from Ngomeni, Kyuso, Tseikuru and Mumoni divisions. The Distribution Center does not stock millet despite the fact that it is the major crop grown in the area due to lack of permission/order from the National Cereals and Produce Board Headquarters. This was rationed to ensure supplies did not run out. Even if the supply were to improve, very poor people would still find it unaffordable.

The combination of declining production and the limited access and affordability of imported food means the region’s food security has declined. This has had several negative impacts on people’s lives. Some have to walk over 20 kilometers to reach Kyuso to buy grain and livestock keepers have to trek even further in search of fodder and water for their animals. This means they have less time for other work, reducing opportunities to earn an income.

Farmer adaptations

Many farmers are struggling to adapt to the changing climate. Joseph Meithya Kasawla, a 57 year old farmer from Kyuso, believes that people think only traditional crops such as maize grow in the region. These no longer do well with the increasingly poor rains, but many farmers are unaware that crops such as cowpeas would survive better in the drier conditions. Farmers also lack theseeds which are a critical farming input. However, some farmers are adapting by switching to fruit crops, particularly mangoes (see side bar).

The experiences in Kyuso are relevant to areas facing similar challenges:

· Farmers need information about switching to drought tolerant and fast maturing crops, and access to seeds

· It is important to promote water harvesting and demonstrate different techniques

· The storage of grain during bumper harvests is vital to provide enough food in poor seasons; processing this surplus can also add value and avoid wastage.

· Grain distribution centres, markets and local farmers can all help to improve the supply of seeds of promising cereal crops, so that people take advantage of the good seasons wherever they occur

Inspiring action on climate change

International Climate Challenge (ICC) groups at Kithyoko secondary school have involved themselves in a project where by bathroom water is reused for agriculture.The student first acquired a piece of land behind the boy’s bathrooms. They then dug a furrow to channel water from the bathroom to the piece of land. Holes were later dug where green leaves commonly known as Kales(sukuma wiki )and tomatoes were planted .All this activities took place around the month of October and November .

This project has been using the water from the boys’ bathroom to irrigate the plants.It took the students around three months to see the fruits of their work whereby in January ,they had their first harvest. Since then they have been having successful yields.

The ICC club members have a plan of extending the project to girls’ bathrooms as this will increase the yields and also increase the sustainability of the project. This project has benefited the community in a variety of ways: firstly, there was provision of vegetables to the school kitchen .It is good to note that this is fresh vegetables from the garden. Moreover, the school community acquires the kales(sukuma wiki )at affordable prices, making life more sustainable to them. In addition, the school and the neighbors have acquired the knowledge of reusing water and are now applying the knowledge to their farms.

The income generated from the sale of the vegetables is used to expand the project. This involves setting up new nurseries and increasing the land under cultivation

By taking parts in this project the students especially those taking agriculture have been able to apply the knowledge learnt in the classroom thus enhancing efficient learning.The students are also happy to involve themselves in a successful project which keeps them busy and earn them some money .They are proud of the project and have been educating the wider community on the same.

Another major benefit the project has brought is recycling of bathroom water which would have been discarded. As a matter of fact this is one of the major successful projects of the ICC programme. This is so, because the community is still benefiting from the project and the environment is sustained in that the green plant makes use of carbon dioxide in the air and release oxygen which is a requirement to human life.


School projects

Kithyoko secondary school ,Yatta district

International Climate change