Coping with increased temperature, uncertain rainfall, droughts or flooding, how can rural communities adapt to meet the challenges of a changing climate?
Despite countless initiatives to boost agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa, seasonal hunger continues to blight the lives of millions of families. Poor storage is just one reason behind it, with farmers losing much of their harvest to pests and damage. As a result, in the weeks and even months prior to harvest, families have to scrape by on minimal food or income. And with climate change making rainfall increasingly unpredictable in many areas, small-scale farmers seem to be more vulnerable than ever. At a recent workshop - Seasonality revisited - experts considered the best ways forward.
published: September 2009
With water sources drying up and grazing resources under pressure, livestock herders in northern Kenya are being encouraged to slaughter their weaker animals. The approach is recommended by the recently published Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS), but implementing it has involved building the trust of pastoralist communities. Under a destocking programme, the communities are being paid for animals that are killed, and also receive the meat. Dan Irura, programme manager for VSF Belgium in Turkana, explains how it has worked.
published: August 2009
Can wildlife and livestock co-exist sustainably? Can the grazing and water resources of Kenya's Southern Rift Valley continue to support the Maasai communities who have lived there for generations? Two young Maasai, who both work as resource assessors for the African Conservation Centre, offer their opinions about what they see today, and how they see the future.
published: May 2009
In semi-arid or arid areas, a year's rainfall may occur in just a few big storms. With insufficient storage structures, most of this water is simply lost to the sea. Rainwater harvesting is certainly advisable, but building of tanks or reservoirs is expensive, and the amounts of water stored may be relatively low. But given the right geology and rainfall pattern, sand dams can be a good alternative. Building a low wall across a river bed leads to a build up of sand behind the wall during the rainy season. This sand can also hold a large amount of water, which can be pumped out during the dry months. Over 300 sand dams have now been built in Kitui district, central Kenya, greatly reducing the distances that people must walk to fetch clean water. In River bed water storage - low cost and sustainable, Dutch water advisor, Arjen de Vries, explains more.
published: December 2008
Potato is one of the most important food crops in the world and is grown in many parts of Africa. But climate change means farmers will have to change the way they produce this much-loved staple. The effects of climate change on potato production are already being felt in Africa and beyond. So what exactly is happening and what can be done to protect the potato? Potato experts from Kenya and Mauritius discuss the pressures facing the crop and an agricultural meteorologist gives his perspective on what needs to be done.
published: October 2008
Heavy rains and damp conditions bring greater disease risks to livestock. Wet ground can lead to foot rot in cattle, goats and sheep; damp litter in poultry houses encourages the spread of coccidiosis. And if livestock are moved away from floodwaters to areas with large populations of wild animals they may be at risk from other diseases such as foot and mouth. In early 2008, floods in southern Zambia led to problems such as these. Senior Veterinary Officer Paul Fandamu explains what practical steps livestock farmers can take to protect their animals' health during the rainy months.
published: June 2008
Every country has its national treasures. In this interview, Jackie Hughes of the World Vegetable Centre highlights the value of some food plant species, which she believes are treasures, but which have been neglected. These include plants such as amaranth, which can grow in marginal areas but which is also very nutritious. If more widely grown, these neglected crops could play a role in improving diets among the resource poor, and raising their income. They could also help to maintain farm production in the face of climate change.
published: April 2008
One of the criticisms aimed at biofuels is that they are often responsible for the displacement of biodiversity. For example in Brazil, there is concern that the production of sugarcane, which can be used to create ethanol for fuel, has resulted in the clearing of large expanses of rainforest. This has a negative impact on local biodiversity and the preservation of indigenous plant varieties. In Cameroon, Martha Chindong spoke to Mary Mbantenkhu to ask her what problems might arise from the large-scale cultivation of monocultures for biofuel production.
published: February 2008
The debate on climate change has given rise to concerns about how to reduce carbon emissions. An increasingly popular method is to produce bio-fuel from organic matter. Bio-fuel can be mixed with petrol or diesel, to produce far less carbon dioxide than fossil based fuel. Our correspondent in Kenya attends a conference to ask the experts what they think about the energy options for Africa. Are bio-fuels a viable option?
published: December 2007
We will be finding out about the wild plant jatropha. Will it use up precious land which could be used to grow food - or does it hold the key to feeding the world's hungry industries?
published: December 2007
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