The role of grassroots institutions in enhancing household adaptation to climate variability in farming systems in Embu County, Kenya
Ombogoh, Douglas Bwire
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The highlands of East Africa are the food baskets of the region, yet the livelihoods of communities in these areas are at risk with increase in climate variability. Adaptation measures are needed to cushion these communities and enable sustainable agricultural systems. However, most adaptation measures are planned at the national level with little regard to the local adaptation processes. The role of grassroots institutions in enhancing adaptation through collective action needs to be examined to identify effective policies that will augment adaptation in the target areas. This study was conducted in two Focal Development Areas (FDA) in Embu County Kenya. It examined the role of grassroots institutions in enhancing adaptation to climate variability in smallholder farming systems in the study area. The study objectives were: to identify adaptation strategies in response to rainfall and temperature variability; to identify collective action strategies used by grassroots institutions in enhancing adaptation to rainfall and temperature variability; to determine socio economic factors that affect the choice of adaptation strategies; and to determine the limitations of grassroots institutions in enhancing adaptation to rainfall and temperature variability. Through simple random sampling, a survey of 240 households was undertaken, supplemented by focus group discussions with community groups and key informant interviews. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze adaptation strategies, while the second objective was analyzed by chi-square (X2) test and Principal Component Analysis (PCA). Logistic regression was used to analyze the third objective, and thematic analysis to analyze the limitations. Common adaptation strategies to rainfall variability included: planting different crop varieties (59.3%), planting trees (52%), planting different crops in different seasons (46%), and soil and water conservation (35%). Using chemicals and fertilizers (22%), use of shading (20%), and irrigation (14%) were common adaptation strategies to temperature variability. Respondents adaptation to climate variability was related to membership in community groups, i2 (1, N=240) =42.09, p<.OOI). Collective action strategies that enhanced adaptation were: development of group capacity encompassing skills and knowledge sharing, making collective decisions and sharing income; group assets management; collective marketing and market information sourcing; and human and natural resource management which involved labour sharing and formulation of management rules for natural resources. Access to credit, access to weather information, on-farm income, and belonging to a group were determinants of adaptation strategies (chi square= 113.296, p< .001 with df= 22). The main limitations were financial constraints, lack of cooperation among group members, conflicts and limited access to safety nets such as insurance schemes. Communities in the study area adapted their farming systems in response to perceived climate variations. Collective action through farmer groups provided an opportunity for addressing the climate related risks. Therefore, initiatives in the study area should focus on strengthening farmer groups' capacity through soft skills development to enhance collective action. Timely access to weather information and opportunities for accessing credit will contribute to enhancing resilience of smallholder farmers in the study area.