EFFECT OF RAINFALL VARIABILITY ON FARMING PRACTICES AND ADAPTATION AMONG HOUSEHOLDS OF KISII CENTRAL SUB COUNTY, KENYA

ABSTRACT
Agricultural productivity in Kenya, as in many developing countries, is significantly affected by rainfall variability. The reliability of the rain for agricultural purposes has reduced in the recent years due to climate variability. In the study area, there is a continued trend of more frequent and intense climate related disasters which is expected to have significant impacts on the livelihood activities. Most studies on the impact of climate variability on farming practices and the response strategies have mainly focused on arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya and have mainly used community level data. Information on actual dynamics of rainfall variability at household in high potential areas like Kisii is scanty. This study therefore aimed at determining the effect of rainfall variability on farming practices and adaptation as perceived by households of Kisii Central Sub County. The specific objectives were to identify the weather shocks associated with rainfall, assess the relationship between households‟ characteristics and perception of the effects of rainfall variability on farming practices, identify the adaptation strategies adopted by households and establish the relationship between households‟ characteristics and adaptation strategies adopted to enhance resilience against rainfall variability in Kisii Central Sub County. Structured questionnaires were administered to a proportionate random sample of 120 households from the four administrative wards of the Sub County. Data from questionnaires were also complemented by oral interviews with key informants from Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) (currently Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Ministry of Agriculture, FGDs and secondary data. Descriptive statistics as well as inferential statistics technique have been used to analyze data with the help of Statistical Packages for Social Sciences (SPSS version 20). Inferential statistics technique employed the use of Chi-square (χ2) test to analyze data. To make reliable inferences from the data, all statistical tests were subjected to a test of significance at coefficient alpha (α-level) equal to 0.05. Coefficient of determination (R2) was used to determine inter-annual rainfall variability index. The study reveals that gross changes in rainfall patterns were noticed in the past ten years in the study area. Some of the most severe effect of rainfall variability on the farming practices includes feed shortage for livestock, water resource decrease, pest attack, drought, soil erosion and disease epidemic. This study concluded that gross changes in rainfall patterns have been noticed in the past ten years in the study area leading to a negative effect on the household farming practices. This study recommends that the government (County and national) should realize the urgent need for measures that are geared towards reversing the negative impact of climate change and especially rainfall variability in the study area. There should be efforts in putting in force appropriate measures and policies that are aimed at reducing the farming problems in the study area that relate to feed shortage, water resource decrease, pest attack, drought, soil erosion and disease epidemic.

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
Background Information
The effect of climate variability and change on natural systems has emerged as one of the most critical issues faced by humankind (UNDP, 2007; Vaga, Jaramillo, Olanye, Kamonjo & Jaramillo, 2009; Ojwang, Agatsiva & Situma, 2010; Owolabi, Gyimah & Amponsah, 2012; Makenzi, Ketiem, Omondi, Maranga & Wekesa, 2013). Climate change is a global threat and has no geographical boundaries and is a topical issue worldwide because of its attendant problems that are threatening the sustenance of man and his environment. Climate change is projected to disproportionately affect the poor living in both rural and urban environments. Rural subsistence farmers or households are threatened by the changes in climate change. Climate change and variability in Sub-Saharan Africa is already impacting negatively on rain-fed agriculture and livestock systems (Ngeno & Bebe, 2013). Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts because of their limited capacity to adapt (Bryan, Ringler, Okoba, Koo, Roncoli, Herrero & Silvestri, 2011; IFPRI, 2011).

Kenya experiences a number of natural hazards, the most common being related to adverse weather change (IPCC, 2007; GoK, 2010a). Climate change is increasing inter-annual rainfall variability and the frequency of extreme events (Ojwang et al, 2010). Recurrent extreme weather events have high economic implications on the affected households and can trigger food insecurity, thus impacting negatively on the economic wellbeing of the affected communities and can restrict or hamper long term growth (IFPRI, 2011). Climatic variability may affect crop farming and animal production differently, such that it may be favorable to one but unfavorable to the other (IPCC, 2007). Kenyan agriculture is sensitive to climate variability, particularly variations in rainfall. It is therefore important to establish the exact effects of rainfall variability on crop and livestock production in Kisii, a high potential region whose people heavily rely on rain fed agriculture thus making the households vulnerable to the negative effects.

Kenyans rely heavily on rain-fed agriculture for food security, economic growth and employment creation, stimulation of growth in off-farm employment and foreign exchange earnings (NEMA, 2005). Food production is particularly sensitive to climate change, because crop yields depend directly on climatic conditions (Owolabi et al, 2012). In the study area, agriculture is highly dependent on rain as irrigation is seldom practiced (NEMA, 2005). Crop productivity depends on agro-ecological factors such as temperature, rainfall amount and distribution, soil characteristics and use of inputs such as chemicals and fertilizers. However, most significant of these factors is the erratic and unpredictable rainfall and elevated temperatures (NEMA, 2005; Barrios, Outerra & Stroble, 2008; Ojwang et al, 2010) that will lead to reduced productivity and an increase in production costs.

The effects of climate change will vary based on locality with some regions becoming unsuitable for cultivation of certain crops and some becoming suitable (Gbetibouo & Hassan, 2005; IPCC, 2007; Kurukulasuriya & Mendelsohn, 2007; UNDP, 2010). Therefore climate change does not only come with detrimental effects but also with some opportunities. However, the probability of disruption of agricultural sector is very high. The future effects of climate change and variability will include increases in short term weather extremes. It is therefore imperative to examine the effects of rainfall variability at household level in Kisii Central Sub County.

Research by Thornton (2011) has noted the negative effects of climate change in Kenya. This is due to low adaptive capacity, predominance of rain-fed agriculture and scarcity of capital to adapt (Fischer, Shah, Francesco & Van Velhuizen, 2005; Nnamchi & Ozor, 2009; Speranza, 2010). Over the past years, multiple interrelated factors such as small fragmented landholdings and minimal access to agricultural inputs, reduced employment opportunities, market inefficiencies have contributed food insecurity and gradually weakening households‟ livelihoods in Kisii region. The agricultural system in the study area is dominated by intensive small-scale mixed farming. Maize and beans are the main food crops while tea and coffee and are the major cash crops (Omosa, 1998; Olden, Thompson, Bolton, Kim, Hickley & Spencer, 2012), which are highly vulnerable to rainfall variability. Kenya is likely to continue experiencing countrywide losses in the production of key staples such as maize due to rainfall variability (Herrero, Ringler, van de Steag, Thornton, Zhu, Bryan, Omolo, Koo & Notenbaert, 2010). Herrero et al, (2010) observes that rainfall variability reduces the production of not only staple food crops such as maize but also other major crops such as tea, sugarcane and wheat. It is primarily for this reason that this region must be put on a high research agenda.

Rainfall variability effects include among others; reduced crop yields, emergence of crop and livestock diseases and pests, delayed planting and harvesting, reduced livestock feeds (fodder) and loss of incomes. To cope with these effects of climate change, rural people draw on indigenous knowledge and innovate through local experimentation and adaptation (Nzeadibe, Egbule, Chukwuone & Agu, 2011; UNESCO, 2012). Communities have long been adapting to climate variability and change (Kristajansen, Neufeldt, Gassner, Mango, Kyazze, Desta, Sayula, Thiede, Forch, Thornton & Coe, 2012). A number of households in Kenya already practice a range of adaptation measures and therefore households in Kisii Central Sub County could be adapting to the changing climatic conditions using traditional knowledge, innovations and practices. Olden et al, (2012), notes that there is need for households in Kisii to diversify their farming practices as response to climate variability as the effects have already been felt in the region. It is for this reason that this study sought to examine the effect of rainfall variability as perceived by the households and how it has been affecting their farming practices.

Statement of the Problem
Agriculture remains the major contributor to food security and livelihoods for rural poor households in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural production in Kenya has been facing a challenge of successive crop failures due to drought, excessive rainfall and flooding, crop pests and diseases, declining soil fertility due to lack of proper crop rotation and intercropping, deteriorating soil structure, lack of production-enhancing technologies, and land fragmentation due to increasing population. Given the dependence on rain fed agriculture with low fertilizer application, the future of agriculture in Kenya remains under the threat of increasing temperatures and more erratic rainfall patterns projected for the 21st century. Due to climate change, the reliability of the rain for agricultural purposes has reduced in the recent years, mainly due to high rainfall variability. The seasonality, amount, distribution and the timing of the rainfall is of particular importance to the population that depends on rain-fed agriculture for subsistence. A continued trend of more frequent and intense climate related disasters as a result of climate variability and change especially rainfall variability, is expected to have significant impacts on the livelihood activities of households in Kisii region, especially food production. Despite countrywide studies on the impact of climate variability on farming practices and the response strategies, there is variation in response depending on location, socio-economic systems and environmental conditions of the area. In addition many studies have mainly focused on arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya and have used community level data. Information on actual dynamics of lowest possible level such as a household in high potential areas like Kisii is scanty. It is in this view that this study sought fill the gap by examining the effects of rainfall variability on household‟ crop and livestock farming practices and their responses or adaptations to this phenomenon in Kisii Central Sub County, a region highly dependent on rain-fed farming.

Objectives of the Study
Broad Objective
The broad objective of this study was to contribute to an understanding of the effects of rainfall variability on household farming practices, their adaptation strategies and the relationship between households‟ characteristics and adaptation strategies adopted in Kisii Central Sub County.

Specific Objectives
The specific objectives of this study were to:

1. Identify the variations associated with rainfall that occur in Kisii Central Sub County.

2. Determine the relationship between households‟ characteristics and perception of effect of rainfall variability on farming practices among the households in Kisii Central Sub County.

3. Identify the adaptation strategies and establish the relationship between the choice of strategies and the household characteristics.

Research Questions
The following research questions guided this study;

1. Which variations associated with rainfall occurs in Kisii Central Sub County?

2. How do the households perceive the effects of rainfall variability on their farming activities based on their household characteristics.

3. What are the different crop and livestock farming practices/ strategies adapted by households against rainfall variability in Kisii Central Sub County?

4. How is the relationship between households‟ characteristics and the choice of adaptation strategies in Kisii Central Sub County?

Significance of the Study
Livelihood activities particularly in Sub Saharan Africa are largely dependent on the natural environment making them highly vulnerable to climate variability particularly variations in rainfall. Rainfall is the ultimate source of water for food production and other uses in rural economies across Kenya. Given the impacts of rainfall variability on livelihoods, the study sought to carry out a meaningful assessment of the effects of rainfall variability on household farming practices and the adaptation strategies that have been adopted by households. The study being based in the rural community revealed the household vulnerability due to rainfall variability and the adaptation strategies available. This study is in line with the aspirations contained in the National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) on increasing Kenyans‟ ability to tackle climate change challenges with the view of ensuring a climate resilient nation. This will contribute towards realization of the global Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Kenya‟s vision 2030 that seek to achieve an improved local environmental resources management system and rural livelihoods that are more resilient to climate variability. In addition the agricultural sector, including crops and livestock is a priority in vision 2030. The agricultural sector is a key driver for the delivery of the 10 percent economic growth envisaged in the economic pillar of vision 2030. Lastly, understanding how farmers perceive climate change risk is valuable to other stakeholders such as extension service providers and climate information providers as it provides a link to policy on how to cushion farmers against rainfall fluctuations.

The Scope and Limitations of the Study
The study was carried out in four administrative wards of Kisii Central Sub County; Keumbu, Township (Getembe), Kiogoro and Mosocho. The study focused on the effect of rainfall variability on the farming practices of the households in the study area while at the same time identifying the adaptations put into place by the affected households in response to rainfall variability. The units of analysis were the households and the subjects of analysis were the household heads. However due to limited resources and time the study did not interview all households involved in farming within the sub county, but only sampled 120 respondents. The study was limited to the perception of the effects of rainfall variability and thus there was scant effort to quantify climate variability and there was no secondary data analysis of the effects. The study also focused on rainfall and did not consider other climate variables such as temperature and humidity. This is because rainfall is the most critical factor influencing farming in the study area and the study being a household survey, data on other climatic variables such as temperature or humidity could not be easily gotten from households.

Assumptions of the study
The study was undertaken with the following assumptions:

i) All households were involved in some form of farming practice either crop production and/or livestock production.

ii) The households‟ responses reflected their true understanding of the questions posed to them and that they were representative of the wider community.

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Item Type: Kenyan Material  |  Attribute: 86 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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