Turning the tide on excess rains to reap maximum benefit
That climate change manifests itself primary through water is no longer in question. The common belief however is that inadequate water, as witnessed during droughts, is what constitutes climate change.
On the contrary, so many phenomena point to a change in climatic conditions. In addition to heatwaves and droughts, there also floods and cyclones among others. Kenya for instance has been experiencing long rains at the odd time. Ordinarily, the long rains would start in March and continue into May. This is no longer the case as rains have become erratic- being experienced at odd times either in low or excess quantities. The current long rains, for example, are an extension of the short rains that are normally experienced between October and December. The month of January is traditionally a dry month in Kenya. The Kenya meteorological department has intimated that rains being are likely to continue until June. Under these circumstances, most parts of the country are likely to experience flashfloods and crop farming is likely to be a challenge.
Related Article: Dash Crop Limited Gets Boost through Early Stage Financing
In Gwasii, Homabay County, some farmers have devised an adaptation strategy that includes shifting from growing maize, the staple crop, to more indigenous and climate resilient crops such as sorghum, millet and amaranth. Such crops withstand a wide range of climatic and soil conditions. They are known to be more heat and drought resistant than and can also withstand periodic water logging without being damaged.
What’s the motivation for climate-resilient crops?
Lack of market and exploitation by middlemen initially hindered the smallholder farmers growing such crops. Their produce would fetch little, if at all they made it to the market, hence lead them to huge losses. The reprieve came when the farmers got contracted by Dash Crop, a commercial aggregator of horticulture and grain crops operating not only in Homabay but also across Nyanza and Western regions of Kenya where such crops are grown. Dash Crop is also a KCIC client in the Accelerator Programme.
Last year, the enterprise was a beneficiary of our Early Stage Financing to assist them procure machinery for the milling of gluten free flour from the locally available drought resistant crops. Initially, Dash Crop faced challenges of inadequate supply to an already available market due low production. With the financing, their production has greatly improved and they aslo support the value chain by providing partial payment upfront to cater for farm activities such as ploughing, weeding and harvesting. The farmers also appreciate fair trade practices Dash Crop has put in place in their dealings, contending that their produce now fetch more unlike there before when they would get ripped off by middlemen.
Read also: Gluten free flours, a healthier alternative
Dash Crop produces assorted brands of fortified flour from cassava, finger millet, amaranth and soybean. The range of flours are used for porridge, ugali and baking and are targeted at low income earners, nutritionally conscious individuals and institutions including schools and hospitals.
“I am able to comfortably meet the needs of my family. I now pay fees comfortably for my three children,” says Jared Ochieng, a farmer in Olando, Gwasii.
By Vincent Ogaya