Agriculture and Climate Change: How to Right the Wrong

Posted on November 4, 2022

The ravaging effects of climate change are increasing affecting not only humans but all living species on the planet: crops, animals, and marine life. 

Different localities are facing the effects of these climatic changes differently due to factors such as the present vegetation cover, altitude, farming practices, and population density among others. The effects range from flooding, and storms, to rising temperatures, prolonged droughts, and depleted land, leaving smallholder farmers the most affected. 

A boy in Turkana County, Kenya, seats on a jerrycan while his donkey lies flat motionless for lack of food and water/Dream Team Agroconsultancy Limited

More than 22 million people in East Africa are on the brink of starvation as international organizations warn that the situation may even worsen in the coming months.

In northern and central Kenya, animals are dying for lack of food and water as 4.1 million people face starvation as drought ravages for four successive seasons now.

Parts of Eastern Uganda, for example, are experiencing acute drought causing crops to dry because the sandy soils, eroded as a result of human activities, can no longer hold water, which is now scarce.

Drought-resistant sorghum is drying up paving the question of what we are doing wrong in our farms to contribute to the crisis. 

Intensive farming

Intensive farming largely starts with cutting down trees which are the major elements in carbon sequestration to acquire enough land for cultivation and harvesting. 

The land is left bare, giving a chance to soil erosion and its agents. Monocropping is mostly practiced in this type of farming, which is not recommendable for soil conservation due to the reduced resistance to pests and diseases in crops. 

Defoliation of cassava due to mealybugs in Soroti District in Eastern Uganda/Cultiva Dream Team Uganda

The need for more land is prompted by population increase which leads to the demand for more food and settlements and this culminates in cutting down the naturally growing trees.

Continuous tillage of the land without practicing soil conservation measures, dumping poisonous and non-biodegradable substances in the soil, and overgrazing is also things perpetrating the loss of tree species and water sources. 

Inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, and human activity

The human activity that results in to use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and the emission of greenhouse gases is another major contributor to the climate change crisis. 

Inorganic fertilizers remain in the soil, diffuse into crop production and get eaten by humans and animals, evaporate into the atmosphere causing air pollution while the residues are washed away into water bodies. 

The same applies to the application of pesticides due to the increase of pests and diseases whose life cycle is favored by increased temperatures like green mites, mealybugs, and fall armyworms.

Animals and poultry waste also generate methane into the atmosphere which is a dangerous greenhouse gas. The transportation of food, animals, and their products during the value chain requires motor vehicles which emit greenhouse gas. 

Combating climate change in the farm

Climate change and its effects can be dealt with if collective action is considered since farmers are aware of the climatic challenges based on the unusual conditions they face in their farmlands. 

Cultiva Dream Team Uganda field officer with a farmer in Serere District, Eastern Uganda/Cultiva Dream Team Uganda

Field officers from PlantVillage’s Cultiva Dream Team Uganda, which works to help small-holder farmers adapt to climate change, have taken the initiative to talk to farmers during their daily activities about the different ways of combating the crisis:

  1. Irrigation: Farmers are now finding the importance of practicing irrigation through simple methods such as the use of bottles to make water drips to crops and a transfer of this technology to their fellow farmers is being encouraged by the field officers.
  2. Agroforestry: Trees are known for storing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Planting more trees, protecting the existing trees and natural forests combined, and maintaining our wetlands protect our ecosystem. Agroforestry (planting trees with crops) provides additional benefits since the trees, such as Grevillea robusta, act as windbreaks and fix nitrogen in the soil. This should not stop in the farmlands: cities, car parking areas, homes, and schools can have trees.
  3. Organic farming: The application of compost manure restores the soil and increases water retention. A combination of biochar with compost manure gives a wholesome benefit to the soil. Biochar is known for increasing water retention.
  4. Drought-tolerant crops: Planting drought-tolerant crops, trees and early maturing crops is another way to deal with drought conditions and can be coupled with mulching or planting of legumes and cover crops to restore the soil.
  5. Technology: The use of technology such as the one found in the PlantVillage Nuru application to detect and diagnose pests and diseases in your farm to give immediate solutions is the quickest means of reducing the widespread of pests and diseases and saving our environment from exposure to chemicals and too intense activity.

References 

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=effects+of+fertilizer+application+to+the+environment+&btnG=#d=gs_qabs&t=1667367173278&u=%23p%3DbPhPndWeUJ8J

Ifad: https://www.ifad.org/en/web/latest/-/small-scale-farmers-could-help-fill-the-global-food-gap-if-they-irrigate-properly-even-with-growing-climate-challenges

Royal Society Publishing: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2019.0120

Soil Association: https://www.soilassociation.org/causes-campaigns/a-ten-year-transition-to-agroecology/what-is-agroecology/

Written By: Agnes Kampire

 

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