Effects of Climate Variability on Tea Yields And Adaptation Strategies by Smallholder Farmers In Bomet County, Kenya
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Changes in weather elements such as temperature and rainfall have a strong influence on tea yields. The extent to which climate variability has impacted on tea yields, the main source of livelihood in Bomet Central sub-County is still not documented. To bridge that gap, this study investigated the effects of climate variability on tea yields and the adaptation strategies by smallholder farmers in Bomet Central sub-County, Bomet County. The data used in the study include: observed monthly rainfall and temperature for Bomet Central sub-County obtained from Bomet Water Supply Weather Station and monthly tea yields data for Kapkoros and Tirgaga tea Factories obtained from Kenya Tea Development Agency from 1993–2013. The research was based on a descriptive survey design with a target population of 10,800 tea farmers with a sample size of 130 respondents. Questionnaires were used to collect data on adaptation strategies and determinant factors influencing adaptation strategies from farmers in the study area. Regression analysis and descriptive statistical methods of data analysis were used. Regression analysis was used for time series rainfall, temperature and tea output data over the 21-year period. Descriptive analysis involved computation of frequencies, percentages, mean and standard deviation of the data on adaptation strategies used by smallholder tea farmers. The first objective was to evaluate the effects of rainfall and temperature variability on smallholder tea yields in Bomet Central sub-County from 1993–2013. The results showed that Bomet County experienced a slight increase in rainfall and temperature trend by 6.471mm and about 0.029oC respectively per year. Pearson correlation showed that there was a weak positive relationship between rainfall variability and tea yields R=0.122 (R2=0.015) and a strong positive relationship between temperature and tea yields R=0.908 (R2=0.825). The second objective of the study was to determine the adaptation strategies used by smallholder tea farmers in response to climate variability in Bomet Central sub-County. Weed management to reduce competition for moisture (78.9%) and proper drainage systems on long and steep slopes (47.7%) were the most common adaptation strategies. The third objective was to investigate the determinant factors that influenced the adaptation strategies used by smallholder tea farmers in Bomet Central sub-County. Gender, age, education level and household size were vital in facilitating adoption of better and affordable climate variability adaptation strategies which enhances smallholders’ tea production. Based on the findings, the study concluded that rainfall variability has negatively affected tea production in Bomet Central sub-County. The study also concluded that there was a positive correlation between temperature and tea yields. Majority of tea farmers have embraced at least one adaptation strategy to climate variability but confirmed that they had never been involved in climate variability adaptation planning beforehand. The study also revealed that education, age and gender significantly influenced a number of these adaptation strategies. The study recommends that farmers be advised to enhance the use mulching, planting drought resistant tea varieties, planting cover crops during young tea stage and regular weeding to mitigate the effects of Rainfall variability. The study also recommends that the County and National Government institutions need to enhance the adaptation strategies used by farmers by providing advice on the need to plant drought resistant varieties such as purple tea so as mitigate the effects of climate variability. Purple tea processing units should also be established in the existing factories to allow farmers earn more profit.