Kenyan rural farmers embrace short-term crops to boost climate resilience

In an under-populated village located 68 kilometres South-east of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, lies a farm with endless stretches of green interspaced by towering water tanks.
The nearly three-acre farm is ever drawing interest from local residents owing to its high-yielding capabilities. This is despite being situated in a region that has for decades received minimal rainfall. Vincent Mulunje, the farm owner, terms it as self-sufficient because of its capacity to produce nearly all its input as well as its efficiency in utilizing waste. “Every equipment, animal, and plant present is not by chance. I selected them after accessing their individual benefits and their ability to work as a single unit that will sustain itself,” said Mulunje at his farm. “The scat from cow, goats, and chicken is collected and constitutes composite manure, foliage from the farm which are unsellable are fed to the herbivores while water from the wells ensures the crops receive water, whether it rains or not,” he added.

Kenyan government spokesman in April relayed a concerning message, 1.4 million people largely from the northern part of the country were at risk of hunger. The startling projection emerged from the weather forecast that suggested the counties of Garissa, Turkana, Wajir, Mandera, and Isiolo could receive depressed rainfall.

While this was happening, some residents along the Great Rift Valley were reeling from the economic and social devastation caused by the rising waters of Lake Bogoria and Lake Baringo. Additionally, inhabitants close to Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru and other rift valley lakes, received advisories in April to move to safer grounds in the wake of the pounding rains.The two extremes that are now becoming more frequent and intense in their severity are now inspiring a shift in farming practice, a departure from traditional farming techniques, and the adoption of short-season crops. It is, therefore, no surprise that Mulunje has put a large tract of his land to growing kales and other ingenious leafy vegetables in place of the traditional maize crop. “A crop like maize can only be planted twice a year and the production cost is high, whilst kales take two to three weeks. Also, if I calculate what I could make with one bag of maize harvested after a few months and vegetables harvested every three weeks the difference is stark,” said Mulunje. “A Sukuma wiki (kales) harvest can fetch me 1,071 shillings (about 10 US dollars) after every three weeks, of course, the rate shoots up depending on the harvest while with maize I have to wait for close to six months to make money,” he added.

Farming across Kenya is increasingly changing in response to the high temperatures, long bouts of drought, and rising sea levels. Some farmers are being more experimental with drought-resistant crops like millet while others like Mulunje are deviating from what was familiar many years ago for the more lucrative crops. “My mother planted a lot of sweet potatoes, arrowroots which did very well but right now very few people have those in their farms, nearly every farmer wants a fast-maturing crop and one that consumes moderate water,” Mulunje said.He said that some of the streams and rivers that supported arrowroots and other varieties of tubers have since dried up.Moreover, he stressed the importance of embracing farming as a steady source of income referencing his success story. Aside from kales, the farm also has spinach, avocado trees, chilies, beans, orange and lemon trees. He has two dug-up wells which serve both the farm and his homestead needs sufficiently.According to a 2019 Word Bank analysis, Kenyan households that are exclusively engaged in agriculture contributed 31.4 percent to the reduction of rural poverty with agriculture being the biggest employer to both poor and non-poor households in rural areas. XinhuaEnd of it
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Zambian museum innovates to survive pandemic woes
 It is an established fact that museums the world over have registered a sharp decline in incomes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because almost all museums rely on international visitors to survive.

While some museums have closed, others are still operating because they are employing innovative measures to reach visitors. Livingstone Museum, which is located in Livingstone, a city in southern Zambia, is one of the heritage places that have continued to operate, thanks to its programs that target local people.The museum has been conducting educational talks about its products and services in schools and other communities, efforts which have seen local people develop an interest in their culture and heritage.”The response has been good, we now have more locals coming through to the museum,” said Clare Mateke, the acting director of Livingstone Museum.

Mateke revealed that Livingstone Museum is currently working to have a mobile exhibitions program aimed at bringing its products and services closer to communities.  “We plan to have mobile exhibitions and move around communities with some exhibits as well as give talks about our products and services. This will also be an opportunity for us to learn from communities how best to deliver our programs,” she said.Mateke also revealed that the museum, has during this period used its social media platforms as well as website extensively to aggressively market its products and services. She further mentioned that before the advent of the COVID-19, the museum used to have a minimum of about 50 international visitors every day. Today, it receives only about five international visitors per day. “That is why we are encouraging local people to take an interest in their heritage and visit the museum,” Mateke asserted.According to a report by the International Council of Museums, the situation for museums and their professionals remains dire, with serious economic, social and psychological repercussions in the short and long term alike. Despite this gloomy picture, the COVID-19 crisis, however, has served as a catalyst for innovations, some of which were already underway, notably an increased focus on digitization and the creation of new forms of cultural experience and dissemination.In 2020, despite the limitations imposed by a digital-only format, #IMD2020 activities reached more than 83 million users on social media on May 18. As the world commemorates International Museum Day this year under the theme ‘The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine’, museums are being called upon to come up with new business models for cultural institutions and innovative solutions for the social, economic and environmental challenges of the present Xinhua

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