Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Based on what we know, can Kenya plan its climate future?

International Food Policy Research Institute: Kenya appears to be booming. ... Every day brings new opportunities, such as the discovery of oil and the more recent discovery of aquifers in the desolate northern Turkana region. Globally, Kenya’s reputation for lions and giraffes may be supplanted by its exports of fresh flowers and produce, the product of a thriving horticulture industry. The country’s GDP is rising, but the truth is that agriculture’s contribution to Kenya’s economy is on the decline. This is troubling, because 75 percent of the country’s labor force is still devoted to agriculture, and the vast majority of Kenya’s farmers rely on rain to feed their crops. And a new challenge looms large: climate change.

Kenya’s agriculture is vulnerable to climate change, but there may be reasons for optimism, according to a new comprehensive analysis prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).

The study, which was funded in part by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), offers a detailed snapshot of Kenyan agriculture now and predicts how shifting demographics and future growing conditions could affect food security and crop production. The analysis includes projections for crop yields, population growth, and income, as well as scenarios for climate change from four different models. When taken together, these projections reveal a number of insights about Kenya’s future.

The Kenyan horticulture industry’s lifeblood is the water of Lake Naivasha, and the dramatic landscape around the lake, which sits in the Rift Valley, is marked by large greenhouses, their white plastic covers flapping in the wind. A symbol of growth and globalization, these greenhouses also stand out as a profitable exception: irrigated agriculture only accounts for 1.7 percent of the country’s total land area under agriculture, according to the report. There are already plans to change this: Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2013 - 2017 aims to increase the area of land under irrigation to up to 1m hectares from the current 140,000 ha...

A roadside market in Kenya, shot by Angela Sevin, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr,  under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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