The Potential Of Agroforestry As An Adaptation Strategy To Mitigate The Impacts Of Climate Change: A Case Study Of Kiine Community- Kirinyaga County
Kenya, just like other countries in the world, continues to feel the impacts of climate change. These impacts are huge more so in Africa, as the backbone of its economy is heavily reliant on agriculture. As we know, most agricultural activities in Kenya are rain fed, with very few under irrigation. Given that adverse effects such as climate variability and change continue to be observed, the livelihoods of farmers continues to be compromised. Further, irrigated areas are uncommon as most of the Countries populace are poor with limited pro-poor inputs to sustain agricultural practices. The World Agroforestry Centre (2013) defines agroforestry as a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that, though integration of trees on farms and in agricultural landscapes, diversifies and sustain production and builds social institutions. This system has for many years demonstrated potential to mitigate impacts of climate change. For instance, Mbow Cheikh et al (2014) note that agroforestry provides assets and income from carbon, wood energy, improved soil fertility and enhancement of local climate conditions as well as provides ecosystem services and reduces human impacts on natural forests. FAO (2010) states that incorporating trees and shrubs in food crop systems help address food insecurity, increase CO2 sequestration and reduce vulnerability of agricultural systems. In Kenya, Kiine south area in Kirinyaga County is no different. It is mainly an agricultural area which over the years has been producing less food owing mostly to the impacts of climate change. For instance, observed prolonged dry seasons and shorter rainfall seasons continue to be observed. Additionally, its people continue to rely on unsustainable practices which limit the benefits which would otherwise be derived from the same agricultural land using improved practices such as agroforestry. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the potential of agroforestry as an adaptation strategy to the impacts of climate change in the study area. The specific objectives were to profile agroforestry practices and climate change adaptation benefits derived from each of them, to identify key agroforestry costs and benefits and to determine contribution of agroforestry to the improvement of livelihoods of the Kiine Community. Using stratified sampling technique, the study sample of 100 farmers was used to collect data. Both structured and unstructured questionnaires were used to obtain information from individual farmers. The study employed questionnaires and observation schedules to gather data from individual farmers related to the study objectives. Generally, the study established the following. Planting of trees and shrubs as windbreakers, riparian forest buffers, silvopasturing, and boundary planting were the most preferred methods of agroforestry whereas forest farming, alley cropping and woodlots were least preferred. It was also found out that there is need for training as well as introduction of both indigenous and exotic agroforestry tree species. Specifically, 94% and 90% of the respondents felt that there is need for them to be trained on agroforestry practices as well as incorporation of exotic species which the respondents felt would assist in reducing the lengthy production period of trees on farm. On the other hand, 90% of the respondents believe that agroforestry can increase catchment for rivers and streams, improve climate, increase wood production as well as improve livestock health and products. The finding established that agroforestry has a direct link in improving livelihoods of people in the study area. For example, farmers in the area would trade agroforestry products in the market such as food (fruits), fodder, fuel wood, medicinal substances, gums, tannins, essential oils, fibres and waxes. The money obtained, provides means for accessing second tier facilities such as paying school fees for their children or even accessing heal care facilities. Given the findings, the study concludes that agroforestry is an approach to agricultural production that can reduce the impacts of human activities and global climate change on the local environment. Agroforestry can improve the resilience of agricultural production to current climate variability as well as long-term climate change through the use of trees for intensification, diversification and buffering of farming systems. The major recommendation from this study is that training in agroforestry practices is key to a successful integration of agroforestry as part of current agricultural practices. Equally important is the need for the county government or respective officials to establish farmers’ links to the markets. Here, they will be assured of income as they trade agroforestry products.
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