Knowledge, attitudes and practices on climate change Adaptation by small holder farmers in Mwala constituency, Machakos County,Kenya
Climate variability and change is affecting weather patterns and this has serious repercussions on food production among smallholder farmers in Kenya. In particular, semi-arid environments such as Machakos County are extremely vulnerable to climate variability and change because their crop production systems are sensitive to and reliant on rainfall. This study was undertaken in Machakos County, and sought to determine the knowledge, attitudes and practices on climate change adaptation by smallholder farmers within Mwala Constituency. Primary data was collected through interviews with key informants and household heads. Using semi-structured questionnaires, farmers were assessed on their knowledge and attitudes on climate change and practices they were using to adapt to impacts. Farmers’ adaptation practices were analysed in relation to rainfall and temperature data to determine their strategies when faced with climatic changes. The study also analysed maize crop yield in relation to rainfall and temperature data between 1984 and 2014. The results show that the long term mean annual rainfall for Mwala was 630 ± 42.22 mm and a temperature range of 15-32 °C. Between 1988 and 2014, the mean annual rainfall for the area decreased at the rate of 5.8 mm per year (y= 705.44+5.7815x, n= 106 p<0.001). The average maize yield for the period was 1620 kg/ha/year. Farmers in Mwala Constituency had a high awareness of changes in rainfall and temperature. Eighty one percent (81%) believed that climate was changing as they had observed changes in their local environment and had taken specific measures to cope with the effects on their crops. Further, it was established that farmers had a positive attitude toward the changes and had joined farmers’ groups and cooperative societies for information sharing. Some of the practices adopted by the farmers towards climate variability included agro-forestry, farm forestry, planting different varieties of crops, and staggering planting time. The major factors that drove farmers' investment in adaptation practices were age, level of formal education and level of awareness of climate change issues. Factors constraining them from adaptation measures included poverty and lack of information. The study findings underscore the need for policies towards farmer capacity building that entails education, awareness, poverty alleviation and increased access to more efficient inputs.