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June 10, 2009

Climate change may mean a dry future for Kenyan farms

by Gatonye Gathura

Life in Kenya’s famine-prone fringe areas will get worse with total crop failure within the next four decades, according to a new study. The study carried out by the International Livestock Research Institute says drought-tolerant maize and even the much more resilient millet will hardly survive hotter weather and rainfall shifts in the areas. It advises policy makers and residents to think of promoting the rearing of hardy livestock breeds.

In what could be the most extensive forward-looking prediction of climate change, the study published in a special edition of the Environmental Science and Policy journal, says up to one million square kilometres of African farmland will be ruined by climate change by 2050. If this proves right the lives of over 10 million Kenyans living in much of the country’s arid and semi-arid areas are at risk.

The study, done by the Nairobi-based institute in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Waen Associates is categorical that marginal farmlands will no longer be able to support even a subsistence level of food crops. The study is among others supposed to inform an ongoing UN meeting in Bonn, Germany, where experts from around the world are considering how a new global accord on climate change can offer adaptation strategies for the rural poor.

The Bonn meeting recommended that $1 billion to $2 billion of additional official development assistance be provided immediately by developed countries to help poor countries, particularly in Africa, to cope with climate change.The group also wants regional centres created to develop and distribute new crop strains that are resistant to heat, drought and salt water encroachment.

The Ilri Africa survey, though it did not name specific localities, described the characteristics of the continent’s most vulnerable areas, mainly inhabited by pastoralists and agro-pastoralists.

The findings mean that Kenya may have to review its national policy on development of such areas between 2004 to 2013, which is still in draft form. The document proposes spending 10 per cent of the government’s annual revenue on arid and semi-arid areas in the next 10 years.

Daily Nation

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