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    The recent report by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) last week warns of climate change that is set to put millions of people in a vicious cycle of food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty with the number of undernourished people increasing by 815M of people going hungry every day over a span of a decade.

    According to the report, the acute climate change is caused by emissions from agricultural sector which is set to increase in future that unless the world adopts sustainable, climate-smart ways of producing, transporting, processing and consuming food,people especially in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States are "particularly vulnerable" to this change.

    RELATED STORY: East Africa’s dilemma in feeding billions as climate change crisis looms

    In Kenya alone, the people most vulnerable to food insecurity live in urban informal settlements and in the arid and semi-arid regions that make up 80 percent of the country’s land area. A quarter of the population lives in these regions, which suffer from poverty according to World Food Programme.

    Droughts and unpredictable rain patterns exacerbate the situation, and 47 percent of the country’s overall population lives below the poverty line.

    "Climate change puts millions of people in a vicious cycle of food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty. Yet, we must confront the harsh reality: we are not doing enough to deal with this immense threat," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva during United Nations Climate Change conference, COP 23.

    RELATED STORY: Eating less meat reduces climate change, study

    Noting that we should "not be discouraged by the challenges ahead," the FAO Director-General stressed that achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 is still possible. "Agriculture is where the fight against hunger and climate change come together to unlock solutions."

    "It is not enough to only transform the way we produce food. Climate change mitigation and adaptation must be integrated into the entire food system: from production to transportation, from processing to food consumption, and in both rural and urban areas," Graziano da Silva said.

    This spike is due mainly to conflict and economic downturns, but also the impact of climate change, particularly prolonged droughts in Africa. And estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that climate change might increase the risk of hunger and malnutrition by up to 20 percent by 2050.

    RELATED STORY: Green revolution feeds continent, tames climate change

    Graziano da Silva pointed to the fundamental role of food systems and agriculture which are heavily affected by climate change, but at the same time are also major drivers of climate change.

    Adopting climate-smart agricultural practices

    At least one fifth of total greenhouse gas emission can be attributed to the agriculture sectors, Graziano da Silva noted.

    Much more needs to be done to reduce these emissions and to simultaneously improve yields and build resilience, the FAO Director-General said. This means adopting approaches such as agroecology and sustainable, climate-smart intensification, among others.

    "We cannot expect that smallholders, family farmers and pastoralists ...can tackle these challenges on their own," and they will need national and international support, he added.

    RELATED STORY: Arid land farmers invest in timely planting to fight climate change

    "Reducing deforestation; restoring degraded lands and forests; eliminating food loss and waste; enhancing soil carbon sequestration; low-carbon livestock - these are only a few known solutions to address hunger, poverty and sustainability at the same time," Graziano da Silva explained.

    He noted in particular, that while livestock emits more greenhouse gas than other food sources, "low carbon livestock is possible," - for example, FAO estimates that readily available improved husbandry practices can reduce emissions by 20 to 30 percent.

    RELATED STORY: OPINION: Ecological farming is key to food security, climate change

    FAO's work includes supporting countries in sustainably improving their agricultural sectors; in adapting and building resilience, and in mitigating global warming through agriculture. It also assists countries monitor their Nationally Determined Contributions in terms of climate change and delivers the technical and financial support needed to turn these commitments into reality.

     

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    bee hivesA farmer in the arid Matungulu area of Eastern Kenya is shielding himself from dry spells by embracing climate resilient farming like beekeeping and has become a model to others as thousands of customers flock to his farm for quality honey. Gabriel Mbatha Nzomo locally known as Alex is a dedicated dry-land farmer. From his five acre piece of land in Kyakatulu village, the farmer has been able to pay school fees for his children to the university level.

    Apart from keeping bees, which is one of his prime 'farming business, the farmer keeps hundreds of indigenous chicken, goats, and whenever it rains, he rows drought resistant legumes, oranges, mangoes among other crops.

    At ten O'clock in the morning on this particular day, two motorists drive right into the compound in search of honey. “Whenever am not around, my wife is always indoors waiting for clients like the ones who have just arrived. The fastest moving product is honey. But at times I receive buyers of indigenous chicken," said the farmer.

    Alex has 22 Langstroth Beehives on his farm, some of them confined in a grass thatched apiary, while others are hanging on trees and shrubs on the farm. Langstroth Beehives are considered to be the most convenient especially if one has to practice beekeeping as a business. They have rectangular frames made of wire-mesh. The main advantage is that the bees build honeycomb into the wire-meshed frames, making it easy for the farmer to move the combs without trouble.

    “Unlike other beehives, it is easy to pull out one frame after the other from the Langstroth beehive to check whether there is honey without breaking the combs," said the farmer. This means that the farmer has the opportunity to harvest only the honeycombs that are full with honey.

    Following the frame design in a Langstroth beehive, bees do not attach wax honeycomb between the frames or to the walls of the hive. Hence, the farmer does not temper with the wax, one of the most essential components needed for bees to make honey.

    Under normal circumstances, bees consume seven kilograms of nectar in order to make a kilo of wax. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the farmer primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein nutrients. Alex harvests between 15 to 18 kilograms of honey from each beehive twice a year.

    “I have a special machine for extracting honey without getting impurities into the final product, and without damaging the honey-combs, and this is what customers need pure honey," he said. Alex began honey farming in the year 2000 with three Top-bar beehives. But three years later, he was linked to a Belgian Non-Governmental Organization, from which he was fully trained on bee keeping as a business, prompting him to buy the Langstroth beehives.

    To supplement the beekeeping business, Alex engages in indigenous poultry farming. This is a business that most villagers here have tried but failed due to various reasons. “The biggest impediment has always been diseases, particularly the Newcastle disease," he said.

    “Through a program known as Kenya Arid and Semi Arid Land KASAL project, I have been taught how to vaccinate the chicken against the Newcastle disease," said the farmer.  According to Dr Ann Wachira, a poultry expert at KARI, and a KASAL Principal Investigator for the Indigenous chicken pro-gram, the Newcastle disease has no cure. The only way to combat the disease is to stop the chicken form getting it and the best way is through vaccinating the birds, she said.

    As a result, the KASAL group trained 64 trainers of trainees in Eastern Kenya who as well act as community based extension officer to ensure that al chicken are vaccinated at a cost of five shillings per dose administered. Alex is one of the lucky trainers or trainees.

    “It is like another job. I receive orders on daily basis, but I venture out in field to vaccinate chicken in villages twice every week”, said the farmer. Now that the biggest problem for poultry farming in his are ahs been controlled, Alex has been able to improve the stock of birds on his farm. I just sold 120 birds a few days ago. At the moment, am remaining with 197 birds he said.

    However, the farmer as well involves himself in crop farming especially during rainy seasons. “Rains are elusive in this area. As a result, we can only plant whenever it rains sometimes once after three years, he said

    Alex has become a role model to many people in his village and beyond, who visit his farm to learn about techniques one can use to remain productive despite the scorching drought.

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