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.

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