By Christabel Arina
Agriculture is a major driver of the Kenyan economy, contributing 54 percent to the Gross Domestic product (GDP) and accounting for 65 percent of total export earnings, according to the World Bank.
With changes in seasonal patterns and rainfall amounts which are already experienced in many parts of the world, the country is set to disrupt food supplies and cause shortages if effective strategies and plans for adaptation to climate variability and change including better access to climate information services, are not put in place.
Climate Information Services such as; immediate and short-term weather forecasts, advisories, and longer-term information about new seeds, technologies and market developments help people make decisions on when and how to plant. The service is also useful in helping farmers manage risks in what is already an exceptionally risky sector and in offsetting uncertainty that constrains decision-making and innovation.
According to a case study by Africa Climate Policy Centre, LandInfo Technology is one of the innovations which can cover key climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture. The application allows individuals and organizations to use a smart mobile phone to determine the potential of any given piece of land in supporting pasture and crop production as well as predict its vulnerability to erosion under the prevailing climatic conditions which is based on the accurate soil and climatic information provided.
The LandInfo App also provides global and local knowledge which enables users to identify the suitability of any given piece of land for any particular crop in order to obtain maximum productivity under the prevailing climate.
Successful use of Climate Information Services depend on the farmers’ functional literacy and appropriate delivery of the service. For the information to be beneficial, farmers need to seek tailor made information at the lowest scale farm level. The farmer also has to have the ability to follow up the two way communication.
Africa Climate Policy Centre also says that accurate and accessible rainfall information helps farmers decide not only when to plant and harvest but also when to dry the crops and look out for the outbreak of pests and diseases that can ruin yields. Working with such information increases the farmers’ chances of boosting productivity and avoiding post-harvest losses.
Extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding and storms are also increasing in intensity and frequency. Climate information can predict the intensity of the rainfall and which areas will be hardest hit especially in cases of heavy rainfall. It can also indicate whether infrastructure – such as roads and communications systems, essential for market access – is likely to be impacted. Governments can prepare for these kinds of events in the immediate term, such as putting measures in place to tackle the strain on vital resources, through the guidance of the climate information services. Over the longer term, reliable climate information can also guide governments in how to invest in infrastructure that is located, designed and built in light of the current and changing climate.
The importance of climate, as an agricultural aspect is more crucial if the geographic situation and the global warming of the atmosphere are taken into account. When the climate becomes more warm and dry, food production can become a tremendous problem. Therefore, climate related knowledge needs to be promoted to help solve food security in the country. With effective climate information services, the climate-sensitive sectors will be able to cope better with the increase of variability and hence bringing greater agricultural and other productivity.