Ownership of a radio: Bullet magic to minimizing effects of climate change in semi-arid regions

Varying and changing climatic conditions are increasingly becoming major concerns for most farmers and pastoral communities in Kenya, particularly those in the semi-arid regions. Researchers from University of Embu (UoEm) and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization (KALRO), have demonstrated that ownership of radio is an important pathway for receiving climate change adaptation information that enables farming and pastoral communities to make farm level strategic and tactical decisions. Under the leadership of Dr. Mogaka Hezron of UoEm, research conducted in Machakos, Makueni and Kitui Counties revealed several pathways through which farmers and pastoral communities may use to access downscaled agro-advisories. The available choices include ICT-mediated pathways such as TV, Short-Messages Services (SMS) supported by all the major mobile telephone providers, FM Radio Stations and diverse groups, among others. The level of use of these readily available pathways was found to be dependent on the level of education, farm size and farm level agricultural productivity. Through the devolved units, it is therefore possible for county governments to plan and budget for the expansion of the existing pathways, facilitate participatory preparation of agro-advisories, and innovatively disseminate the advisories. This will enable farming and pastoral communities to make both farm-level strategic and tactical decisions. The other researchers who contributed to the study are, Dr Kwena Kizito (Senior researcher at KALRO), Dr. Samuel Ndirangu (Senior Lecturer – UoEm) and Ms Debra Onyango (Postgraduate Student at UoEm).  The study was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada.

The researchers demonstrated that the FM Radio dissemination was the most preferred pathway among the rural populations and more particularly the call-in stations, which facilitate interactive sessions. This is a viable option that national and county governments could exploit in disseminating downscaled agro-advisories with special emphasis on the recommended sets of technologies to be adopted for the season. This pathway was considered viable given the penetration level of radio as a media of communication. In addition, the study revealed that SMS was readily available for use, given the high mobile technology penetration. With emerging technologies and innovations on the preparation and use of climate change adaptation information in form of agro-advisories or weather-based agro-advisories, the situation may not be as gloomy as it appears. The key information contained in the agro-advisories includes, the expected on-set of the rains, its cessation, spread and intensity, fertilizer application regimes, recommended value chains and the likely returns to investment. These innovations will enable farmers and pastoral communities to take advantage of any season by maximizing on the seasonal forecasts.

Based on the results from the study, the effect of climate variability and change may be minimised through the use of downscaled agro-advisories or weather-based advisories. It is, therefore, recommended that the county governments consider the preparation and dissemination of weather-based advisories as important factor of production that has the potential to reduce the impacts of climate change at the farm level.  This article is an extract from a paper entitled “Household socio-economic factors influencing choice of agro-advisory dissemination pathways for climate change in semi-arid areas of Kenya” published by SAGE publishers sagepub.com/journals-permissions DOI: 10.1177/02666669211026005 journals.sagepub.com/home/idv