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Greenhouse gases produced by Kenyan farmers: Project to measure village emission levels

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming of western Kenya

Typical smallholder’s farm in Busia, in western Kenya, where farmers mix crop growing with livestock raising (photo credit: ILRI/Pye-Smith).

A team of scientists is collecting information on the level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by smallholder farmers.

Scientists from CGIAR centres under the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) said the project’s key aim is ‘to get first hand information on how much GHG is released through agriculture in smallholding farms and inform government and agricultural organizations to develop policy on management of the problem’.

We are looking at the landscape changes in the last three decades by collecting climate information data and building local capacity for researchers in East Africa through the collaboration with Maseno University. Researchers are being trained on how to measure GHG emissions resulting from agricultural activities and to identify best mitigation options for the country.
— Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, scientist on joint appointment at the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, in Garmisch, Germany, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), during a recent field visit in Western Kenya.

‘Butterbach observed that even though agriculture and specifically livestock is blamed for the production of 40 percent of GHG emissions, no good data exists to prove the claim as Kenya has no capacity to study the level.

‘“The local researchers involved in the study are meant to carry on the work once the project study ends,” he noted.

‘Butterbach noted the current population is changing the concentration of gases in the atmosphere since the pre-industrial time.

‘Today agriculture is following industrial revolution through its emissions that stands at 30 percent.

‘It is obvious that the human activities are currently changing atmosphere by producing more carbon dioxide and hence contributing to the global warming.

Mariana Rufino, a scientist now at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) who recently left ILRI, said that the national research institutions are involved to help inform the government of the development that also helps in reporting to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC).

‘“We want to support decisions made with scientific evidence”, Rufino added.

‘She said that the project is set to help promote climate smart agriculture and also inform other regional countries about the importance of developing home grown mechanisms as opposed to using acquired technology.

‘Under the project, a mini meteorology station and a greenhouse gases measurement site has been set up in the farms to help make inventory of the amount of gasses produced by the farms through agriculture and the farmer’s economic production per season.

‘Rufino observed that most farmers cannot afford irrigation and mineral fertilizers, and therefore have to manage their organic resources effectively.’

 James Kinyangi, a staff member of ILRI and a CCAFS regional program leader, said that the project ‘is looking at the GHG emissions from the farms with the aim of informing the government on the best actions to take in controlling the gases.

‘He observed that the findings will ensure that Kenya develops its own mechanism of reducing the gases in agriculture and report back to the UNFCC.

The findings are to help inform national climate change action plan and as well as help the country come up with specific actions for the whole country — James Kinyangi, ILRI and CCAFS

‘He noted that the findings will also help empower county governments to have their own monitoring units to advise farmers regularly on ways of disposing the farm remains instead of burning them. . . .

‘Kinyangi noted that once the study succeeds and it is proved that it is proper monitoring equipment, Kenya will use it to ask for funding from the UNFCC since it is a home grown solution to adapting to climate change. . . .’

The project is funded by Environment Canada, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the German Ministry of Science and Technology.

Read the whole article at CoastWeek: Scientists set up gas measurement sites in Kenyan villages, 18 Sep 2013.

Read about a recent seminar given by Klaus Butterbach-Bahl at an ILRI ‘livestock live talk’, Want ‘climate-smart’ farming adopted in Africa? Then better start collecting data on how much greenhouse gases African countries are emitting‘ on ILRI’s Nairobi campus on 14 Aug 2013.

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