Effect of climate variability and change on agricultural production: The case of small-scale farmers in Kenya

Measuring the economic effects of climate variability and change on households’ production decisions and livelihood activities is important to inform policy making process.

Dr. Justus Ochieng who was part of a team that undertook a study to exploring the effect of climate variability and change on agricultural production notes the focus was on farm incomes, crop diversification and fertilizer use among small-scale farmers.

Data from the Institutes rich data bank of a four year panel from eight agro-regional zones in Kenya, and climate data from Kenya Meteorological Services (KMS) was used.

Heavy rainfall significantly reduced tea incomes but increased those from maize and all other crops grown. Climate change effect on tea production exhibited strong interaction between rainfall and temperature thus it significantly depends on stable temperatures and consistent rainfall patterns. Predictions for the future effect of climate variability and change also suggest that agriculture will be adversely affected by 2020, 2030 and 2040 but much effect is likely to be felt in Kenyan tea sector.

On the other hand, during high temperature periods, farmers are discouraged from fertilizer application because increasing temperatures can significantly stunt crop growth and also cause soil erosion, water logging, and pests and diseases. Farmers are likely to choose diversified farms over specialized ones in a hotter climate to reduce the extreme effects of climate variability and change.

Participants at the findings dissemination workshop, Nairobi

Policy Implication

1.  Tea as the main foreign exchange earner in Kenya will be adversely affected by climate variability and change if nothing is done. Thus, there is need to rethink the likely harmful effect of climate change in the future and integrate it into agricultural and environmental policy formulation processes.

2. It is necessary to invest in adaptation measures at national, county and farm level especially in tea growing regions as a way of building farmers’ resilience.

3.  An integrated approach comprising use of adaptation strategies such as water management, efficient land use and afforestation measures can reduce extreme impacts of greenhouse gases.

4. To consolidate and implement policies focusing on climate variability and change to prevent further destruction of natural environment and enhance uptake of other strategies such as crop and livestock insurance.