Effects of Climate Variability on Maize Yield in Matungulu West, Machakos County Kenya
Mabonga, Eurry S.
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Climate variability is now a reality and its effects continue to affect agriculture especially crop yields. Maize is said to be one of the crops adversely affected by climate variability. It is projected that unless bold steps are taken to reduce the effects of climate variability on crop yields, then the magnitude of its effect shall be enormous. It is based on this uncertainty that this paper was premised to interrogate the effects of climate variability (temperature and precipitation) on maize yield in Matungulu West in Machakos County between 1984 and 2014. The specific objectives of the study was to examine the mean annual rainfall and mean annual temperature of Matungulu West in Machakos County and the extent inter-annual climate variability has influenced maize yield. The research also sought to establish the different adaptation measures and copping strategies the targeted group has formulated in order to combat climate variability effects. Data was acquired by administration of designed questionnaires to 380 randomly selected household heads. The study also interviewed key informants who were purposely selected from Machakos County Metrological Department and National Cereals and Produce Board Machakos Depot. Both primary and secondary data were collected, collated and analyzed. Statistical Package for Social Sciences was used to analyze data. Historical data from Machakos County Metrological Department was used to establish the mean annual rainfall and mean annual temperature of the study area between 1984 and 2014. Findings of the study indicated that there have been episodes of sharp fluctuation in terms of rainfall and temperature. The area experienced heavy rainfall in 1997 recording 1602 mm and lowest in 1996 recording 302 mm. The study area also experienced high temperatures in 1984, 1986 and 1999 recording 27.6o C and lowest in 1997 and 2011 recoding 15o C. The regression analysis revealed an almost constant amount of rainfall throughout the period with a slight increase in the amount of temperature during the same period. However, some years like 1997 and 2005 there were sharp fluctuations in the mean annual rainfall amount and temperature respectively. The maize yield as per statistics from the National Cereal and Produce Board Machakos Depot indicated that farmers harvested 28 bags per acre and 2 bags per acre in the respective years. Fifty three percent (53%) of the respondents had a minimal awareness of changes in rainfall and temperature. The study found that there was a significant difference in adaptation measures and coping strategies to climate variability devised by households in Matungulu West, in Machakos County. Most of the farmers have reduced or spread risks by replanting with early maturing maize, staggering planting dates, changing crops when replanting, grazing of failed parcels of land and carrying out varietal selection of stress resistant to suit the prevailing conditions. The study established that majority (50%) of the farmers had only acquired primary school education. They were therefore unable to understand challenges posed by climate variability. The study therefore recommended that the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources together with Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries do create awareness on climate variability and its effects on maize yield. Even though most of the population may have been aware of climate variability, the study identified need for additional awareness creation. Awareness creation will not only improve the knowledge of the residents on the existence of climate variability and its effects on maize yield, but also assist them in the development of better adaptation mechanisms and coping strategies