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

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid