By Nancy Rapando (Act!) and Noah Lusaka (ALIN)
The climate change realities faced by rural communities demand new and innovative ways to communicate to small scale farmers. Communication technologies such as the internet provide huge opportunities for farmers to access critical information on a range of topics.
Through participatory scenario planning Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) in partnership with other stakeholders and KMD disseminated climate advisories from Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) alerts. ALIN recognizes that access to information is a basic human right. ALIN has innovatively used community-based ICT facilities known as Maarifa centres to enable some of the most remote communities to gain access to information on climate smart agriculture products, and weather information to improve their livelihoods. In these centres, farmers are exposed to ALIN’s innovations known as Soko+ which involves the use of short messaging services, blogs, iPods and videos.
One of such centres is Ngarua Maarifa Centre in Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia County that was established to assist famers make better and informed decisions in their farming based on factual weather information.
Peter Gicheru, a beneficiary of Ngarua Maarifa Centre and the secretary of Matwiku Horticulture Group, a 21 member self-help group, attests to the benefits of accessing e-platform services. This includes services such as the use of the internet to learn about crops that are resilient to climate change and market access. In one of his visits to the Maarifa centre, Gicheru downloaded several materials on sustainable agricultural practices and shared with other farmers. Gicheru has been able to access information on growing tomatoes, cabbages, beans and capsicum.
Peter Kanyita, a member of the Matwiku horticulture group, has been using basin irrigation method in his onion farm for a long time, which he says was a time consuming costly activity. This is because of the high price of fuel and pipes for irrigation. Furrow and Basin irrigation are two of the most widely used types of irrigation in the area. These two types of irrigation are inefficient in water conservation. However, after exposure to better irrigation models at Ngarua Maarifa Centre, Peter embraced drip irrigation systems for his crops. ALIN in partnership with Act! supported the Matwiku Horticulture group established a one acre drip irrigation system that uses water efficiently therefore enabling group members to grow crops throughout the year! Through field days and extension services, many farmers have adapted this affordable water conserving drip technology that also helps them reduce labour, energy and farm input costs while maximizing production.