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Scientists set up gas measurement sites in Kenyan villages

By Peter Mutai KISUMU, (Xinhua) -- A team of scientists drawn from two international research centers have embarked on collecting information on the level of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions that is produced by smallholder farmers.

The scientists from the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers under the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) said the project 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,” CGIAR Projects Lead Researcher Professor Klaus Butterbach told Xinhua at a recent field visit in Western Kenya.

He said that researchers are being trained on how to measure GHG emissions resulting from agricultural activities and to identify best mitigation options for the Country.

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.

CIFORs Senior Scientists for Forest and Environment Dr. Mariana Rufino 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).

It’s going to prove that decisions are supposed to be made with scientific involvement,” 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 lack capacity to apply irrigation and fertilizer in their farms hence over reliance on organic manure.

Dr. James Kanyangi, the 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,” Kanyangi added.

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

Kanyangi revealed that Kenya’s carbon dioxide is generated by farmers through charcoal burning, cutting down of forests and burning of farm remains after harvesting season.

There is need to keep the soil balanced by using farm remains as fertilizer instead of burning them to produce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” he added.

Saying that the process of retaining carbon in the soil is not easy as opposed to taking it out, Kanyangi revealed that black and red soils are good at retaining carbon in soil unlike sandy soil.

Kanyangi 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 money will be used in building farmers capacity, pay for farmers inputs and also helps finding markets,” he added.

Dr. Todd Rosentock, Climate change and soil health scientist at World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) revealed that the study is expected to provide standard guidelines for measurement of greenhouse gasses from the farms.

Besides informing communities in knowing their contributions to the global warming, institutions that are based in rural areas are also building capacity of their young researchers to be able to carry forward with the research.

The trials are ongoing in 60 landscape plots in different farms. There are two meteorology stations, one on the low lands in the Nyando Basin in Kisumu County and another one on the highlands at Kaplerartet in Kericho County.

It also has 150 sites for agricultural research and 160 sites doing soil research alone. This project involves 220 households and is expected to come up with the way they do farming and what to add to better their farming.

Kenya amongst other developing countries lack the capacity to study the data yet global warming has effect on agriculture.

The project is being done in collaboration with Maseno University at Nyando Basin in Kisumu and Kericho County is meant to help sustain the technology once the donors pull out.

A similar project is also being undertaken in Wote in Eastern Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania.

The project is funded by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the German Ministry of Science and Technology at the tune of 2 million U. S. dollars.



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