African farmers responding to changing climate

Reuters / African farmers are finding new ways to cope with droughts, erosion and other ravages of climate change, but need to do more to thrive in an increasingly uncertain environment, scientists say.

Smallholders have started to plant more drought-resistant and faster-growing crops to keep the harvests coming in, according to a survey of 700 households in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania.

“The good news is that a lot of farmers are making changes,” said Patti Kristjanson of the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi and who led the study.

“So it’s not all doom and gloom… but much more needs to be done.”

Farmers, backed by researchers and international donors, need to find better ways to store rainwater, increase the use of manure and bring in hardier crops like sweet potatoes, she said.

More have taken up faster-growing crop varieties, mainly of maize; adopted at least one drought-tolerant variety; and planted trees on their farms to help to combat erosion, increase water and soil quality.

Half of the farmers had introduced intercropping, such as growing nitrogen-fixing beans with maize. But use of manure or compost and development of water storage still lags.

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