Monday, April 14, 2014

The heavens come pouring

The long rains are finally here with us. Yes many parts of Kenya are indeed wet. infact last week there  were  flash floods in certain parts of the country as a result  of the heavy rains.

It is good news all over, even farmers who were holding onto their  maize stocks are  now selling  in preparation for the new planting season.

Kenya  like many African countries is  dependent on rain fed agriculture meaning that the onset of the long rains is a relief  for  the country's  break baskets and strategic grain reserves.

Last year, the poor performance  of maize, (the staple food)  left a shortage of 10 million bags. The poor performance was evidence in other traditional sources  like Tanzania and  Malawi which we  trade with to supplement our deficits.

It is this background that has got me thinking, the rainfall we had last year  was part of the attributes for the poor maize production, how do we make  this planting  season different.

While there are many rain harvesting techniques employed on small scale mainly by non governmental organizations in arid and semiarid parts of the country many farmers have left their produce  at the mercies of the gods, so to speak.

If it rains, the  food production will be enough for  subsistence use  and sale, if the rains are below average we suffer food  shortage.

The long and short  of  it is that  with  the increasing threat of climate change we need to think  away from rainfed agriculture.

What technologies whether simple or complex can be employed  to ensure that  farmer  productivity is not  grossly affected.

Should  we dig  more boreholes or use rooftop water harvesting systems? Is it possible to dig dip trenches along the farm borders to trap rain water?

I am not an expert in this neither am I in a capacity to recommend technologies. What I do know  for  certain is if  we do not  find and implement technologies on larger  scales that work for  farmers then  we risk  being caught in the endless cycle of drought and famine.

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