Responding to climate shocks at community level in Kenya

Responding to climate shocks at community level in Kenya

Kenya has been bracing itself for drought since last year. Three in four Kenyans live in rural areas and depend on agriculture – a sector accounting for half of GDP.

County Director of Agriculture in Kisumu, Western Kenya, Dr. Sylvester Okech, said: “We’ve already seen extremes. From flooding and hailstones to drought in one year. In some cases 100 percent of maize harvests have been lost. Families are feeling the pinch of food insecurity and prices of maize are rising. We need to really plan for climate change, and make our farmers more resilient.”

The opportunities for climate-smart agriculture have already been documented in Kenya at a national level, in Climate-Smart Agriculture Country Profiles developed by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, the World Bank and CIAT, among other partners. In total, 31 risk profiles at county level will be delivered.

Maize in Kisumu has been hit by hailstones and drought in the last few seasons.


Total number of profiles being generated at county level in Kenya.

Drilling down to tackle shocks

Taking the action one step further, a meeting gathering national stakeholders was held at the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Headquarters in Nairobi on February 8th, to drill down to county level and usher in a new generation of adaptation measures.

Taking into account rich traditional knowledge that farmers themselves have to combat climate change, the profiles will capture interventions most relevant to farmers in specific areas. Dr. David Kamau, speaking on behalf of KALRO Director General, said scientists across the country will be assisting in collecting data and analyzing it.

CIAT’s Program Coordinator Dr. Boaz Waswa said: “We’re discussing climate change at a time when most of the counties are suffering: we have extensive crop failure, rivers are drying up: the impacts are visible at county level.

“But do we have measures in place to cushion communities so that they have alternative options? Do we have responsive planning to implement policy at county level? How do we scale down decision making and national emergency responses? This is why we are having dialogues at national and county level to come up with County-level Climate Risk Profiles to provide baseline information needed to inform climate change mainstreaming in agricultural development initiatives.”

The Kenyan Government has called for higher resolution detail of climate impacts at county-level and the new profiles have been written. At this inception meeting, stakeholders were asked for their opinions on the profiles, before they are shared with other county-level teams.

“At county level is where the rubber really hits the road,” said Evan Girvetz who is leading the initiative. “This level of engagement is extremely important to make sure the profiles reflect the concerns on the ground.”

“This is also not just about a negative story: it’s about identifying resilience – and what farmers are already doing – to identify strengths as well as vulnerabilities and risks within specific agricultural value chains. What are farmers already doing, and where are the gaps where we could find some new solutions to invest in?”

Building resilience from the farmer up

Caroline Mwongera, a climate scientist at CIAT, explained at the event: “Different counties have different priorities: some are tackling drought as a key concern so they may prioritize resilience; others well connected to markets and big cities with good infrastructure could be more concerned with improving productivity. The county-level profiles reflect this complexity.”

The profiles discussed during this event will be further refined with farmers to ensure an inclusive process before peer reviewed validation of the findings. Once the participatory process is over, the county level profiles will be available for all county representatives and publically displayed online.

Elizabeth Okiri, from the Department of Environment and Sustainability, KALRO, said: “It’s very important to develop technologies and then scale them out and take them to the farmer level. This process of working on county-level climate risk profiles will help us identify the right technologies and take them out to the communities where they are needed – especially disease tolerant and drought resilient varieties, like forages for livestock.”

Call to action:

  • Investing in county-level profiles can guide decisions about where to prioritize limited funding in vulnerable areas.
  • Investing in county-level profiles ensures farmers have a say in what technologies are recommended for intervention, increasing the likelihood of their adoption.
  • By investing in technologies suited to site-specific conditions, national research centers can get their technologies off the shelves and into the hands of farmers.

The Climate-Smart Agriculture Country Profiles have been developed and supported by Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, the World Bank and CIAT, among other partners.