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Scientists tap climate knowledge to spur regional farming practices

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Pupils plant tree seedlings in Pombo-Sabor forest in  Kenya’s Keiyo South district. By 2030 East Africa farmers could face a one degree increase in temperature.

Pupils plant tree seedlings in Pombo-Sabor forest in Kenya’s Keiyo South district. By 2030 East Africa farmers could face a one degree increase in temperature. FILE PHOTO 

By BOB KOIGI

Posted  Saturday, December 31  2011 at  00:00
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Scientists have issued an analysis of East Africa’s future climate as the first step in a new programme that will help farmers grow crops that will best thrive in the changed weather conditions 20 years from now, a new study has shown.

“Climate change will significantly alter growing conditions, but in most places the new farming environment will not be novel in the global context,” said Julian Ramirez, a scientist based at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia and a lead author of the study.

The report is compiled by the Consultative Group on International on International Agricultural Research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. Titled: “Climate Analogues: Finding Tomorrow’s Agriculture Today,” the report forms the platform of a global programme to exchange knowledge between communities on current agriculture practices that can help maintain productivity in the future, despite potentially dramatic shifts in growing conditions.

“The situation in the future will closely resemble conditions that already exist in other parts of the world. Making these links might offer clues about practical, proven approaches that could enable poor people dependent on agriculture to adapt their farming to changes in temperature and precipitation,” he said while releasing the report.

According to the analysis, by 2030, maize producers in East Africa could face a one degree increase in temperature during the maize growing season, which would cut yields by about 20 per cent in the absence of adaptive measures. Farmers in Argentina and Uruguay are already growing their maize successfully at average temperatures that are three degrees higher than the norm in Kenya.

Crop varieties
“So what this means is farmers in East Africa who insist in growing these crops when temperatures climb will need to look at the kinds of farming practices and crop varieties that farmers in Argentina and Uruguay use,” said Dr Raphael Oloo from KARI.

In 2012, the research team will pilot a series of farmer exchanges between sites in East and West Africa and South Asia to help farmers see effects of climate change.

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