Reading from Farmers' Scripts: Local Perceptions of Climate Variability and Adaptations in Laikipia, Rift Valley, Kenya
AbstractKnowledge of climate change that increases weather-related risk to agricultural production is critical for communities depending on agriculture for their livelihood. Agriculture in rural communities in Kenya is highly dependent on rainfall, which has been diminishing over time. Most scientific studies have focused on perceptions and adaptations at the local level; however, limited studies have explored local perceptions in ways that are robust, synergistic, and could have practical application to national policy. This study assesses and compares smallholder farmers' perceptions of climate variability with regard to the local knowledge they employ to measure it and adaptations they use to mitigate it. The study was conducted in Laikipia District, Kenya, with a focus on two specific sublocations: Umande and Muhonia. Qualitative data-collection methods included transect drives, informal and key informant interviews, and focus-group discussions. A content analysis of local perceptions of climatic variability was completed using ATLAS-ti, fol-lowed by an interpretation of the results. Small-holders' climatic perceptions are measured seasonally and yearly, and are linked to observable occurrences of climatic variables, which small-holders apply to their management of agriculture and natural resources. Perceptions are similar in both sites and include reports of erratic rainfalls (locally referred to asmajimbo), droughts, degradation of resources, animal and crop diseases, and a prevalence of pests. Notable differences in adaptations used by farmers exist between the two sites. Basic infrastructural inadequacies in both sites limit smallholders from adapting. We conclude that local knowledge is critical and enables smallholders to grasp and act upon microclimate variability and is therefore a source of relevant adaptation practices. Policy-makers are recommended to do ex-ante analysis of their policies and farmer needs, and tailor the policies to enhance adaptation at the farm level.
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