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Scientists work on climate change atlas

By Wangari Njuguna
Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
Tomato farming.
In summary

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is developing a Climate Change Atlas to help farmers adapt better to changing weather patterns.

The project is a collaboration with Copernicus Climate Services of Holland.

Emmanuel Ochola, a climate change scientist at JKUAT, says the atlas will target mostly horticultural farmers who have been worst hit by the phenomenon.

Horticulture has massive food production potential but most crops are sensitive to a slight weather changes, particularly temperatures. 

For instance, tomatoes need about 30 degrees Celsius to mature, but a slight change in temperature leads to crop failure. While many farmers grapple with water shortages, most have no idea how deal with hot weather. 

“Making the climate atlas will help guide them in what crops to plant at which time and the mitigation measures to adopt,” he added.

To create the atlas, the scientists  are largely relying on historical data dating back 50 years, which shows past weather patterns to predict the future. “Priority is being given to the horticulture sector which has been hardest hit by the phenomenon,” he said.

“According to data we collected since August last year, only two months, had temperatures above 30 degrees. But by 2045, only two months will have temperatures below 30 degrees,” he said.

Speaking at Kambiti area in Murang’a County during a farmers’ training forum, Ochola recommended planting of indigenous trees as a cheap and effective way of combating global warming.

Hasse Goosen, a scientist from Netherlands aiding in the making of the atlas, said the project is a collaboration between his organisation Climate Adaptation Services and JKUAT. Extension workers and the Meteorology Department are also involved. 

The project is funded by a European Research programme named Copernicus Climate Services that offers a data store on climate change at the global level.

“We are doing a pilot in Kiambu and Kajiado counties and the same can be rolled out later to other areas,” Goosen said, adding that he had been impressed by measures used by local farmers in the semi-arid area to mitigate insufficient rains.