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Kenya farmers help climate change resilience with mixed farming

by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- When the long rainy season started over a week ago in Kenya, farmer Seth Mutua rushed to plant maize - the country’s staple.

However, unlike in the previous years, Mutua has not planted on his entire one-and-half-acre farm the cereal crop.

The maize sits on three-quarter acre, with the rest hosting bananas, a variety of vegetables, mango, avocado and pawpaw trees and tomatoes.

He also keeps 200 chickens, some 10 dairy goats and grows trees on the edges of the farm.

The farmer is among tens of others, both small and large-scale, in the east African who have adopted mixed farming practice as a way to beat unpredictable weather, one of the effects of climate change Kenya is currently grappling with.

"I planted the fruits about three years ago and I don’t regret because they offer me income especially when the weather is unfavorable," said Mutua on Saturday.

A few weeks ago, when a majority of Kenyan farmers were desperately waiting for the rains, which delayed for over a month, Mutua who farms in Athi River on the outskirts of Nairobi was selling avocados and bananas.

"I grow the Fuerte avocado variety whose harvesting season starts in March. I harvested about a tonne and sold each at 4 shilling (0.05 U.S. dollars).

The farmer also made more income from poultry and dairy goats, enabling him to have money at a time when the dryspell was biting.

Mixed farming is defined as a system where one engages in different agricultural practices, with an aim of increasing income and maximizing land use.

However, while these have been the traditional benefits of the practice, the changing weather pattern has given new meaning to the model of farming as it helps farmers overcome the effects of harsh climate.

"It is no longer feasible to rely on one crop all-year-round as it has been in the past because the rains are unpredictable which calls for farmers to engage in climate-smart practices," said Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro-consultancy.

"Besides the higher income, with mixed farming, a farmer cannot rely on inorganic fertilizers because they have manure from animals.

|This helps protect the land and rivers from pollution," she added.

Macharia noted they are currently encouraging farmers to embrace mixed farming, especially by growing drought-resistant and early-maturing crops like cassava alongside the others they are used to like maize.

"With mixed farming you are assured of income whether it rains or shines because if the rains fail, you still make money from poultry or goats.

|Even for farmers with small pieces of land, they can farm in greenhouses and still keep goats or chickens on the parcels building climate resilience," she noted.

William Koros, a farmer in Trans Nzoia County, western Kenya, who runs a large-scale mixed farm, said the practice gives him an edge in the market.

Besides growing maize, beans, tomatoes and vegetables, he also keeps 300 cows and 200 goats.

"I sell my produce throughout the year.

|I start by selling cabbages, tomatoes, potatoes and onions from April to July then move to harvesting maize thereafter from August," he said.



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