Impacts of Climate Variability on Rice Farming in Mwea, Kirinyaga County, Kenya
Mati, Simon Mutisya
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Climate variability threatens agriculture at local and global scales. Resilience to climate variability impacts calls for adequate preparedness among affected populations. Farmers who rely primarily on rain-fed agriculture appear to be more relatively prone to the accumulated effects of climate variability. The effects are relatively more pronounced in developing world. Rice is a crop of major concern since it is generally one of the most cultivated and consumed cereal crops in Africa and specifically in Kenya. Its productivity is on the decline for factors largely attributable to climate variability. Rice is primarily an irrigated crop. In Kenya, river volumes supplying irrigation water are rapidly dwindling and are no longer able to sustain rice farming as in the past. This study was set to investigate impacts of climate variability on rice farming in Mwea area of Kirinyaga County. The study looked into the area in particular 1990 and 2019 and evaluated effects of the variability on rice production in the same period. It also set out to assess climate variability adaptation strategies employed by rice farmers. To obtain primary data, 144 households were randomly selected from all the rice farmers in the area and the sample was assigned questionnaires. The households were given questionnaires with closed and open-ended items on the specified variables. Further, field observations were made and data recorded in observation sheets and photographs. Other forms of data were obtained from secondary sources including Kenya Meteorological Department, electronic repositories and farmer association offices. Data for each variable and combination of variables were statically analyzed p≤0.05) using “R” software and the results displayed in graphs, tables and pie charts. April recorded the highest mean rainfall of 242.8 mm. Conversely, the mean temperature of the research area over the period was found to be 28.360C. The highest maximal mean temperature of 29.94oC was recorded in 2019 while highest minimal mean temperature of 19.30oC was recorded in 2011. The results showed that there was a positive (r = .3152) significant (p < 0.01) between rainfall and the rice production (in tonnes) per hectare/year. The p-value at 0.39 shows a correlation coefficient of +0.16 between rice production and temperature. After a 30 years’ time series weather trend analysis, there was a high variation trend in annual rainfall and temperatures averages. The year 1992 was the wettest year while 1999 was found to be the driest year. From the findings, correlation between quantities of rice produced and weather variables showed that rice is adversely affected by increased temperatures and so reduced rice yields. Climate variability adaptation strategies employed by rice farmers in Mwea, indicated that majority (64%) apply chemical fertilizer to fasten the growth rate in the face of limited rain water, 22% of them do early planting while minority (12%) of the respondents prefer use of weeds and pest control. This research concluded that temperature increases with less rainfall reduced rice yields. The study recommended that there is need for the government, through the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), to construct a high-capacity central water storage reservoir upstream, more canals around all rice fields and establish dams for harvesting and storage of rainwater. Also, farmers need to get introduced to drip irrigation techniques and establish Kenyan rice- based farming systems and System of Rice Intensification (SRI) for responding to climate variability effects.