Smart Agriculture helps a community thrive in the face of climate change and Environmental Conservation

Smart Farming

The climate emergency has put the world in grave peril, but that is hard when watching the news or looking at the global response to the climate crisis which continues to be a major lax…Climate change isn’t a looming crisis it’s a destructive force affecting millions of lives right now. People who have contributed the least to the climate emergency are suffering most. Life is already a struggle for poor communities. But the climate crisis is making things so much harder. Droughts and floods are becoming increasingly frequent, while growing seasons for crops are more and more unpredictable. It means millions of people are going hungry. People living in poverty are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change for many reasons. They’re forced to live in makeshift homes, on land prone to flooding and landslides. Making a living hard so few will have home or business insurance, or savings to fall back on in an emergency. And when disasters strike, poor diet, sanitation and healthcare and diseases spread rapidly. This issue is rapidly changing and people in the world have started to agree climate crisis is not a distant threat, but one that will affect them personally and direct.

Collecting sand along the dry river

It is important to communicate and engage people more effectively through the power of information. Students in University continue reading science theories and providing research scientific papers, that for some reasons .Science communicators knows that the relationship between how people thinks about climate change is not necessarily. “I thought that having enough information, leaders would be able to make rational decisions but this world does not work like this and most decisions are made in an irrational way,” Caroline says.

Trees within water catchment area with bamboo planted across

Tharaka Nithi Residents are feeling the impacts of climate change .Higher temperatures, unpredictable rainfall patterns, increased incidence of droughts and floods are impacting people lives. Extreme weather events have led to loss of lives, diminished livelihoods, reduced crop and livestock production, damaged infrastructure, among other adverse impacts. It is probable that climate change will negatively impact Kenya’s future development and achievement of the goals of Kenya Vision 2030 .In Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) situation is changing, as prolonged droughts reduce the region’s agriculture and livestock production. Climate smart adaptations to farming are now building resilience to climate shocks in the region, a precursor for protecting food security, water and livelihoods. Tharaka Nithi County is amongst the ASAL areas in Kenya and over 30% of the total population are facing extreme starvation. The county Government has put urgent intervention to address climate change in Tharaka Nithi  that is affecting children not reporting  school due of lacking food.

Mukothima Ward in Tharaka North the area is getting dry and animals are dying, rivers are all dry







Bamboo seedling and a plantation near the river,

Smallholders are grappling with climate change and have been selling their produce to the middlemen due to lack of ready markets amid of increasing drought. Climate smart interventions including drought resistance crops are the way to go in this region.

David Mugambi a middle-aged subsistence farmer from Tharaka Nithi County says life has been a struggle in this harsh environment for decades. Mugambi who is also an expert in Climate change and Environmental Conservation/Natural Resource management has taken this issue as a challenge. He has invested in climate change mitigation by educating his neighbors on how to cope with climate change issues. He ventured into Agribusiness in 2012, after working to various organization dealing with climate change and Natural resource management. “I have 2 acres of land, but I farm bamboo near the river,” says Mugambi, adding that the crop takes five to seven years before maturing and becoming ready for use or sale. He grows other crops such as, bananas, maize, Fruits and vegetables.

Mugambi also sees bamboo as an effective tool for coping with the global problem. For the same reason that bamboo is gaining support around the world, Kenyans are recognizing the vast potential of this incredible grass. Kenya has been losing about 15-20,000 hectares of forest and tree cover each year. This has mainly been a result of exploiting natural resources. As of 2020, only about 6% of Kenya’s land remained forested. This is a shockingly low number for an equatorial country with a partly tropical climate.

Deforestation poses a serious threat to the country’s biodiversity and entire ecosystems. Without the native forests, rainwater washes away the topsoil, resulting in more frequent flooding and serious erosion that makes it difficult for other trees and flora to take root and survive. Trees and forests are vital for attracting and retaining moisture. Without them, the negative effects of Climate Change are magnified. Bamboo’s resilience and its tenacious root system make it an ideal pioneer species in these degraded landscapes. Bamboo plants have minimal nutrient requirements and can establish themselves relatively quickly.

In this land the bamboo trees he planted has spread along riverbanks which are excellent for preventing soil erosion and restoring degraded land  due to its rapid growth.

If each family living a long this area plant these seedlings , within the next three years the dry river will start to rise and curb the harsh water shortages experienced in most of Chera  community people  in Tharaka”.

Bamboo is a sustainable and renewable resources as it continuously spreads vegetatively and develop much faster than tree forests. They produce 35% more oxygen than equivalent stand of trees. In this way, they  acts as a reservoir by collecting and storing large amounts of water in stems during rainy season, and returning water to the soil, rivers and streams during droughts seasons. Help to prevent or mitigate floods and landslides. This too makes the terrain more habitable for other plant species, hastening the forest’s recovery. Bamboo is also bushy and drops a large quantity of leaves, which in turn decompose and help build up healthier topsoil. Mugambi believes in investing in bamboo  can reduce poverty and provide livelihoods of local farmers and increase economic opportunities for youths, men and women in creating job opportunities.

Through small businesses, social enterprises and community groups ,bamboo can generate  new sources of income  and better quality of life for the people in Rural area. Besides getting money by selling bamboo stems, he also gets income from selling bamboo seedlings.

Mugambi has a thorough understanding of what it takes to grow bamboo and what it takes to turn it into a valuable commodity. He is willing and eager to share his knowledge and his passion, training and educating Tharaka Nithi People and beyond in order to see bamboo reach its full potential in restoring the landscape and stimulating the local economy.

Gabbion to prevent soil erosion to the lower side of the river

His neighbour Mr Kimathi has seen her crops yields dwindle over years because of low rainfall leaving him and many more households in this area be dependent on relief food from Government. In this year smallholder farmers in the region predominantly in mixed farming, have been hardest hit with drought resulting to food insecurity. They have watched their crops dry and shrivel to nothing while their livestock waste away to bones and fall dead.

Smart Agriculture Farming

All types of fruits trees in this land
Mulching and planting fruits trees along the line with bananas to provide shade to other crops and also to prevent soil erosion

By taking farming to the next level, Mugambi further explains that he attracted the likes of the youth who previously had viewed farming as a ‘dirty job’ to viewing it as a form of employment as it has not only generated income for them but also made them responsible members in the society. Today he modified another 1 acre land  by planting all types of fruits trees like grafted mangoes, avocadoes, macadamias ,he has also planned indigenous crops in this land like cassavas and lemon grasses.  If you compare his farm with that of   his neighbors you will really enjoy and notice a lot of difference. He is a passionate farmer and he likes advising farmers on areas of climate change, environmental management and smart Agriculture. He likes travelling but mostly in nature things and he believes one day he will have a tourist site where many people will come for exchange visit and also learning. He has also ventured to Agribusiness which is also adding value to his livelihood. Mugambi advised professional people in Tharaka Nithi on how to make the county green. Through experience in Natural Resource Management the members of his society will learn on conservation agriculture that entails minimal or no cultivation and lots of mulching to conserve both the soil nutrients and reduce any form of water loss through evaporation and increase their chances of a bumper harvest, he also embarks on farming crops that are adapted to the region and especially contrally to other non-trained farmers in the region who opt to plant maize which they say is easy to sell only for the produce to dry up prematurely leading to food insecurity in the region.

Bee keeping

Mugambi has initiated a number of income-generating activities around the forest including bee-keeping and community tree nurseries that include macadamia, grafted avocado, and mangoes. He has extended this by digging contours to prevent soil erosion when it rains and also planted lemon grass within contours. Smart Agriculture is my area of interest and I find it interesting especially when doing it yourself. I have made this second land ½ as an orchard farm. I have been doing this for more than 10 years in different lands. At a micro-scale, mugambi has also established a fruit trees farming system at one of the project sites. He is presently working with more than 3,000 thousand farmers direct and indirectly through community sensitization. He has been training farmers on bee-keeping methods.

Grafted mangoes,macadamia and avacado

Women in Agriculture

Purity Gatiria Mithigine women group leader

In the heart of Tunyai Tharaka Constituency in Tharaka Nithi County is a group of women singing and dancing. In spite of the din, the high powered voices can’t be ignored. These are voices of a women group called Mithigine Network celebrating a bumper harvests at their collection centre in Gakiuma Tunyai. But the key thing that cannot escape one’s mind is how the group has managed such a bumper harvest amidst the dry region.

“It is out of the different challenges we were facing as farmers that we decided to unite and find a solution to our farming challenges. To start with they formed six groups each with a minimum of 10-12 members a total of 89. Their main objective was to first acquire high quality certified seeds, seeds approved by the government for quality production. To achieve this, they partnered with seed growers companies and GRADIF-Kenya trained them on farming techniques .GRADIF-Kenya came in hardy and trained us on soil conservation, varieties crops adapted to the region, right use of farm inputs, conservation agriculture, group formation, how to develop a proposal among other key issues in farming.

With this, the group members’ number doubled to accommodate 562 active members and in turn transformed into a network. For proper management, the network was subdivided into 2 where 1 group was to deal with cereals and the other with horticulture produce.

Network members receiving seedlings

The knowledge they have acquired in the groups has even made some members be trainers of trainers (ToTs), such that any new member who joins the group directly acquires the info from the already existing members which plays a greater role in increasing our membership. The groups have also grown to be independent in that they have established financial freedom by not only linking up with the financiers but by also establishing their own financial plans where members can save and access soft loans and sometimes table banking.

Governor  Muthomi Njuki in his speech during swearing promised the residents that they will embark on free certified seeds program. He also commended the county government for having passed the climate act 2019. He will promote irrigation as a major game changer in achieving food security and developing the county. The county government will work closely with the National government and developing partners to have sustainable ideas like the construction of water reservoirs along rivers for adequate water storage and establish a water management committee to oversee conserve and smooth implementation of these projects.

Report prepared by Nicholas Mwirigi

Edited by Gladys K Miriti

Assisted by George wanjohi