The increasing exposure to crop pests and diseases, global warming, drought and floods, and unpredictable weather patterns pose a challenge to farmers in different parts of the country, especially small-scale farmers who mainly depend on natural resources. As the impact of climate change becomes harsher, growers need to embrace climate-smart farming practices to mitigate and adapt to the impacts.
Climate-smart farming incorporates various practices to help farmers adapt to the unexpected effects of climate change while still improving the farm’s productivity and profitability. These practices aim at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing soil carbon sequestration. They include diversifying the farm’s activity through intercropping and rotation, minimizing soil disturbance, practicing conservation agriculture, maintaining soil fertility by applying manure and retaining crop residues, and conserving the soil moisture.
What are the pillars of climate-smart farming?
Climate-smart farming programs are guided by three pillars which aim to:
- Curb greenhouse gas emissions associated with crop production
- Make both small scale and large scale farms more resilient to the effects of climate change affecting them
- Increase the farm’s productivity to improve the farmer’s livelihood
Where are climate-smart strategies applied?
Climate-smart strategies applied in crop management vary depending on the climatic conditions in the region, the landscape of the area, soil properties, and the farming community. For instance, in areas with prolonged drought, farmers can embrace various strategies such as:
- Mulching to enhance water retention, filtration, and soil fertility
- Planting cover crops to enhance soil fertility and to minimize water loss through evaporation
- Increasing their water conservation efforts by using drip irrigation systems
- Harvesting water in tanks, dams, or ponds for irrigation and domestic purposes
- Practicing agroforestry
In areas that are more prone to heavy rainfall and flooding, some climate-smart strategies that can be adopted include:
- Planting vegetation barriers to control water runoff and to minimize soil erosion
- Practicing agroforestry
- Trenching ad harvesting rainwater in dams
- Regular pruning, especially when growing fruit trees and crops such as tomatoes to minimize plant diseases
- Applying manure regularly to enhance soil drainage
- Planting crops in raised beds, especially for crops such as onions, legumes, and vegetables
Flooding and heavy rainfall can result in soil erosion, especially in sloping environments, washing away the topsoil. Trenching and planting cover crops can help minimize soil erosion in areas that receive heavy rainfall and to improve moisture retention in drought-prone regions. In sloping gardens, farmers should plant on contours to reduce soil erosion. Climate-smart agriculture practices focus on improving soil structure, quality, and fertility. Healthy soils help in minimizing climate change by holding excess carbon dioxide and preventing it from getting into the atmosphere.
Water shortages are a major challenge to most farmers in different parts of the world. As the effects of climate change become harsher, water shortages become a severe threat to agriculture. To solve this challenge, farmers should harvest water in dams, ponds, and storage tanks. Besides, they should use more efficient and effective irrigation systems such as drip irrigation which conserves water. Besides, they should build better drainage systems, especially in areas susceptible to flooding, and mulch their crops to enhance water retention.
Drip irrigation in an onion farm
Pest and Disease Management
Global warming promotes the growth of various pests and the development of diseases that can cause massive damage to crops. For instance, high temperatures promote the development of roya fungus which can wipe out thousands of coffee plants. Desperate farmers apply pesticides excessively to fight the increasing crop pests and diseases. However, this move increases crop management costs and contaminates the environment.
Climate-smart agriculture emphasizes minimizing pesticide use urging farmers to plant pest-resistant seeds and seedlings, invest in manual weeding, and use sustainable and environmental-friendly pest and disease control measures.