Seasonal Rainfall Variability Effects on Maize Yields and the Smallholder Farmers’ Adaptive Strategies in Nyeri County, Kenya
Kabata, Lilly Njeri
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Agriculture is Kenya's economic backbone and a source of income for the vast majority of the population. The primary goal of the agriculture sector is to achieve national food security. Because most agricultural activities in Kenya rely on rainfall patterns, short- and long-term variations in rainfall patterns affect crop productivity. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of seasonal rainfall variability on maize yields and assess the adaptive strategies of smallholder farmers in Nyeri County's Kieni East sub-County. The specific objectives were to determine the inter and intra seasonal temporal rainfall variability in Kieni East sub-County between 1988 and 2018, analyze the effects of seasonal rainfall variability on maize yields in the sub-County between 2009 and 2018, and assess smallholder maize farmers' adaptive strategies to the effects of seasonal rainfall variability. The following data sets were used in the study: rainfall data (1988-2018), maize data (2009-2018), a household survey (N=223), and in-depth interviews with MoA, meteorological personnel, and local administration (N=8). Structured questionnaires were used to collect data from smallholder maize farmers in the sub-County. Rainfall data was evaluated using trend analysis, standard deviation, correlation of variation, running means, and the variability index, to assess if there is variability in rainfall annually, within and between the two rainfall seasons. Similarly, maize yield data acquired from the MoA in Nyeri County was used to conduct trend analysis and calculate the variability index on an annual and seasonal basis. A correlation analysis was carried out to investigate the relationship between annual and seasonal rainfall and maize yields. According to the findings, yearly rainfall mean was 780.07mm, a standard deviation (SD) of 156.38mm and a correlation of 0.20.For the long rains, a mean of 260.86mm, an SD of 84.49mm and a correlation of 0.32.The short rains mean was 276.55mm, an SD of 126.09mm and a correlation of 0.46. The Karl Pearson Correlation test revealed a relationship between annual rainfall and annual maize yield of r (10) = 0.821, p = 0.004. Similarly, the Karl Pearson Correlation test found r (10) = 0.634, p = 0.009 for rainfall and maize yield under the long rains. The Karl Pearson Correlation test between rainfall and maize yield following short rains yielded r (10) = 0.918, p= 0.000, showing a strong significant positive relationship. According to the findings of the study, most farmers in Kieni East sub-County respond to rainfall variability by planting maize varieties that are early maturing (82.9 %) and drought tolerant (57.5 % ), high yielding (77 %), disease resistant (57.6 % ), use manure and fertilizers (92 % ), seek extension training (29.6 % ), and employ various water harvesting strategies. The outcomes of the research will be used by the MoA, other policy-makers and stakeholders to develop policies that address rainfall variability. The information will be used by smallholder maize farmers to evaluate their adaptive tactics and develop successful techniques for dealing with extreme rainfall variability. This will increase food yield and resilience to rainfall fluctuation, supporting the country in meeting the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2 and 13, which aim to eliminate hunger and address climate change, respectively.