13 October 2011 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is helping farmers in eastern Kenya make the necessary investments today to withstand drought and prevent food security crises tomorrow.
The agency is assisting over 5,000 farming households terrace their fields to conserve rain water for crop use and prevent the soils from being washed away, as well as building simple dams for better harvesting of rain water, states a news release.
In return for their labour, the farmers receive vouchers they can redeem for food and building materials for the community-owned dams.
Dan Rugabira, FAO’s RepresentativBy building up farmers’ resilience to bad weather today, we help avoid crises tomorrowe in Kenya, said such efforts can help farmers “hold the line” and get back on their feet quickly amid bad weather. This particular area of Kenya is subject to intense bursts of rainfall, which can strip away fertile topsoil. Rainwater is lost through run-off, leaving seasonal river beds bone dry the rest of the year.
“By building up farmers’ resilience to bad weather today, we help avoid crises tomorrow,” said Mr. Rugabira.
FAO also noted that seed stocks in the region are almost depleted and high food and fuel prices have placed an additional strain, forcing families to eat fewer meals a day or to sell off livestock.
However, the food situation in these parts of eastern Kenya, though difficult, is not as dire as in other areas of the country or in Somalia, which is facing a humanitarian crisis that is also affecting other parts of the Horn of Africa.
“That is precisely why these types of projects are so crucial right now,” said Mr. Rugabira.
“We provide families with vouchers they can exchange for basic household items or food while at the same time building vital infrastructure to improve their resilience, so they are not completely blindsided each time the rains fail.”
Most people in this arid and semi-arid area of Kenya survive by farming small plots of land and raising livestock such as a few head of cattle or some goats or sheep.
They depend on the rains to grow cereal crops such as sorghum, millet and maize, as well as grain legumes such as cowpeas, green grams, beans and pigeon peas. However, consecutive years of patchy rainfall mean that farmers here have not had a decent harvest in two – even three – seasons.
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