News / Africa

East African Farmers Plant Seeds of Innovation

Workshop on developing climate-smart crops for a 2030 world. December 6-8 2011, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (CGIAR)
Workshop on developing climate-smart crops for a 2030 world. December 6-8 2011, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (CGIAR)
Joe DeCapua
East Africa has felt the effects of climate change over recent years. There have been frequent prolonged droughts, erratic seasonal rains and floods, all of which have put food security at risk. As a result, regional farmers have taken the initiative to begin innovative agricultural methods.



Agricultural economist Patti Kristjanson said East African farmers are aware of the extremes of climate change. But the driving factor behind their innovations is to ensure there’s enough to eat.

“When you find out in a country like Kenya that a huge percentage of households are still struggling to feed their family from any source at all – from markets, from food aid, from their own farms, from any source for several months a year, you have to say, oh my goodness. So what they’re thinking about is how am I going to get through this next season, this next month, maybe this next week and feed my family? That’s what they’re thinking,” she said.

Kristjanson took part in a study by CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

“I’ve been working with farmers across Africa for 25 years now and they’ve always been making changes and trying different things and testing new approaches and switching what they do and trying new crops, for example, or new varieties,” she said.

A survey was done of East African farmers, without specifically asking them how they’re adapting to climate change.

“We were asking about the whole range of what they’re doing with their crops, with their livestock, with their soil management, with water management, with trees on farms. And basically the way all these households were asked the question was tell us about the changes you’ve been making and then tell us why you made those changes,” she said.

The survey found that more than half were using varieties of crops with shorter growth cycles, including drought resistant crops. This helps farmers adapt to heat and water scarcity. Also, half of the farmers planted trees to stop erosion and increase water and soil quality. The trees led to yields of coffee, tea, energy and medicinal products. Also, 50 percent of the farmers used intercropping or alternating different plants in the same plot.

“So they might be doing it because markets are changing and because there are more people around and because there are more opportunities. They may be making these changes driven by prices for example. What that means is they’re still going to be in a better position to deal with the change in climate when it hits them,” she said.

Kristjanson said these farmers often take great risks in changing to crops they may have never grown before. She said that while farmers are using innovative techniques, they could still be using even more.

“If you think about climate change in the sense that water is going to become more of an issue – increased variability and more frequent extreme events – we would like to see much more transformational changes in the sense that they start storing water. Whereas very few of them are currently storing any kind of agricultural water and they’re not even storing household water,” she said.

What’s more, the study recommends further soil enhancement through terracing, planting hedges, mulching and the use of manure.

Kristjanson said East African farmers are learning about new agricultural methods through programs provided over cell phones, radio and TV. There’s even a popular TV reality show in Kenya where experts choose a small farm and modernize it – similar to home remodeling shows in the United States and elsewhere.

You May Like

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs