Agriculture is the economic engine of the Kenyan economy, given that it contributes about 24% of the real gross domestic product (GDP). Agricultural productivity is strongly impacted by climate change shocks, including total crop failure and livestock losses. African farmers are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their reliance on irrigated agriculture. Therefore, there is a need for interventions such as adopting climate-smart agricultural practices to enhance sustainable food systems.
Adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices is increasingly emerging as an integral component to climate-change mitigation. The three pillars of climate-smart agriculture are sustainably boosting agricultural outputs and income; adapting to and fostering resilience to climate change; and, where feasible, decreasing and/or eliminating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These three pillars utilise the dimensions of social, economic, and environmental development to address global challenges related to climate.
The change in focus of agri-food systems towards food security, adaptation, and mitigation depends critically on climate-smart crops and livestock. An integrated climate-smart crop-dairy goat system presents an opportunity to alleviate poverty and promote food and nutrition security. The farmers can also obtain manure from the dairy goats that they can use to fertilise their lands, which, together with leguminous nitrogen-fixing pigeon peas, will improve soil quality and result in better farm production and a more sustainable environment. Climate-smart crops such as pigeon pea are drought tolerant, highly nutritious, and can be utilised for both human consumption and as animal feed. The pods and the leaves of pigeon peas can be used as animal feed, while the grains are used for human consumption. Similarly, orange-fleshed sweet potato is extremely high in beta carotene, a Vitamin A precursor. Given that it spreads widely and helps to minimise soil erosion, it is also an ideal cover crop. The vines are utilised as animal feed. Growing both forage and feed crops is a crucial part of these integrated crop/livestock farming systems that are resistant to climate change. Crops like pigeon pea and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes provide a range of adaptation options as human foods, animal feed, and soil enhancers. Small-scale farmers in Africa are making progress and achieving new victories by implementing climate-smart agriculture practices (CSAPs), which will improve community wellbeing and food security. Despite these advantages, the adoption levels of CSAPs remain relatively low and unpromising. It may be for these reasons that the FAO advocates studies on adoption and uptake of integrated crop management practices to inform potential yield increase.
FSNet-Africa project focus
Thirty-eight percent of Kenya’s population lives in arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), which make up 89% of the country’s area .The ASALs are characterised by droughts, weather shocks, poverty, flooding, soil degradation, and overgrazing, which, in turn, compromise food and nutrition security and livelihoods. The majority of Kenya’s rural population, roughly 35% of the total population, lives in poverty. Several non-governmental agencies and county governments in Kenya have attempted to promote food production programmes to improve the food intake, nutrition, and wellbeing of the people; however, adoption and uptake of these interventions have remained a big challenge.
The FSNet-Africa research project that our research team is working on focuses on assessing the socio-economic factors, attitudes, perceptions, cultural norms, and gender issues that influence adoption and sustainability of new interventions that promote enhanced food and nutrition security. This study aims to answer the following questions:
- What gender issues, cultural norms, perceptions, and attitudes influence adoption of crop-dairy goat integration farming systems?
- What challenges and opportunities exist in crop-dairy goat integration farming systems?
- Does farmers’ level of awareness regarding management practices contribute to improved crop-animal production?
- What economic factors influence adoption of the integrated crop-dairy goat system?
- Does access, control, and decision making regarding agricultural resources influence farmers’ adoption of crop-dairy goat integration farming systems?
- Does climate change influence choices regarding adoption of crop-dairy goat integration farming systems?
The study is expected to provide perspectives on integrated farming, profile community views, and explain gender roles in integrated farming for sustainable food and nutrition security. In addition to examining how farmers respond to innovations when they are offered to them and the various paths of change that take place during the adoption process, the study will also shed light on why dairy goat integration systems and climate-smart crops are not yet extensively used. Such information will help to predict the uptake of emerging technologies among Kenya’s smallholder farmers and provide useful tools for examining the diversity and dynamics of adoption. The findings will also be used to inform policy on promotion and implementation of integrated farming systems for the realisation of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs).