Effects of Climate Variability on Water Resources and Livelihoods and State of Adaptive Capacity in semi-arid Tharaka district, Kenya.
Recha, Wambongo C. S.
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This study adopted an integrated approach of vulnerability assessment to understand climate variability and its effects in Tharaka District Kenya. The specific objectives of the study were: (i) analyze the characteristics of rainfall variabil ity; (ii) a ssess the effect of climate variability on water availability; (iii) d etermine the perceived impact of climate variability on livelihoods; (iv) Assess the conceptual understanding of climate variability in relation to other socio - economic stress ors and; (v) Assess the availability and use of attributes and indicators of adaptive capacity. The study utilized four data sets: daily rainfall data (1969 - 2007), household survey (N=326), interviews with practitioners (N= 24) and Focus Group Discussion ( N= 48). The study used cumulative departure index and rainfall anomaly index to establish rainfall trends for the period on record; and two sample t - test to establish the difference between March - May (MAM) and October - December (OND). Percentage cumulative mean was used to estimate mean dates of onset and cessation and INSTAT in disaggregation of daily rainfall data into pentads to analyze within - season characteristics. The study utilized X 2 to establish satisfaction levels of distance to water points, socia l amenities and rating of seasonal climate forecasts. Factor analysis was used establish the main effect of climate variability while participatory risk ranking and scoring to yield the lead stressors. In Tharaka, OND and annual rainfall are persistently b elow nor mal when compared to MAM. Rainfall has high inter - annual variability with occasions of positive anomalies such 1997 for OND and negative anomalies such 1984 for MAM. MAM and OND had a coefficient of variation exceeding 0.3 although the former was p oorly distributed in April . The average date s of onset were 21 - 25 of March and October , while c essation dates were May 16 - 20 for and January 6 - 10 for October - January season. But onset dates showed high inter - annual variability than cessation dates. MAM and OND seasons in Lower Midlands 5 and Lower Midlands 4 are markedly different and therefore require different cropping system s . Although 58% of households engage in more than three livelihoods, income derived is very low. Results of factor analysis show ed livestock (25%) and water & forest products (12%) as the most affected by climate variability. This perception was at variance with practitioners who said crops were the most affected. Water scarcity (1.2) and lack of money (1.2) had the highest sev erity index, ahead of irregular rains (1.7) and drought (1.5) as stressors. Awareness on the causes and impact of climate variability and the improved rating of climate forecasts should be harnessed into an opportunity to reduce vulnerability. Livelihood d iversity, land availability, two growing seasons and cultivation of drought tolerant crops are the indicators of adaptive capacity in Tharaka. Adaptation to climate variability is hampered by lack of credit facilities, low literacy levels and limited use o f climate forecasts. T here were institutions in Tharaka supporting adaptation through seed distribution, food relief, irrigation and rainwater harvesting . It is recommended that farmers in IL5 and IL6 tap the full potential of MAM season and stakeholders a ddress socio - economic concerns as a first step to strengthen adaptation . Future studies should quantify drought episodes and analyze the implications of rainfall variability on major crop yields in Tharaka.