Kenya lacks data on greenhouse gas emissions resulting from agricultural activities according to climate change experts. Agriculture contributes to 30 per cent of GHG emissions, with 17 per cent directly emitted from farming practices such as tillage, harvesting and burning of biomass and 13 percent from the change of land use such as forest land to agriculture use.
" If you look at the changing agricultural practices due to the many small-holder farmers in Kenya and Africa, the emission of GHG is much higher and needs to be quantified," Dr James Kinyangi, regional programme leader CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security in East Africa said.
A Sh168 million project has been established to not only monitor the amount of emissions as a result of agricultural activities but to also help advise farmers on better agricultural practices that would boost their income and help improve food security in the country.
A climate station has been established in Kablelartetin Kericho County to demonstrate how to measure GHG emissions. This is in partnership with researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), CGIAR programme on climate change, agriculture and food security, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), local researchers and Maseno University.
This comes as countries prepare for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Warsaw, Poland in November for the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties.
Kenya is party to the Kyoto Protocol which requires countries that are party to the international agreement to commit to binding emission reduction targets. the protocol recognizes that developed countries are principally responsible for the high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, hence it places a heavier burden on developed nations than developing ones.
The project involves planting crops without organic and inorganic fertilisers to understand the effects of different farming methods and of GHG emission. This will help the government in engaging and making the right decisions through scientific evidence which is currently lacking.
" Kenya is party to the Kyoto Protocol and is expected to contribute in stabilising the emissions released into the atmosphere. There is therefore need to develop data to confirm that it is indeed making progress in combating the effects of climate changed as well using the data to inform policy makers," said Kinyangi.
" We need the source of data to report on what we are doing to change as a country. If we are able to document this data for the purposes of monitoring, reporting and verification, we can now participate credibly in the carbon markets or in any other scheme that provides payment for environmental service."
Klaus Butterbach-bahl the lead scientist from ILRI said current estimates of emissions from Africa's agricultural sector rely heavily on data collected in developed countries that are inapplicable to Africa's climatic and environmental conditions.
" As a result many African countries simply don't have reliable information on greenhouse gas emission factors for their agricultural production activities. This is despite the fact that such agricultural emissions are the dominant source of harmful GHG in developing countries," he said. Obtaining country specific GHG emissions data from agricultural activities is critical in supporting climate smart agriculture to help farmers in Africa protect their livelihoods in the face of climate change.
Butterbach-Bahl said African countries have little chance of identifying emission hotspots without accurate emission data.
He said the absence of specific measurements of GHG emissions for each region from agricultural activities is hurting efforts to verify the environmental impacts of agricultural intensification in Africa.
" This information will help in making decisions on which options will make the best use of land resources without further fueling climate change. We are looking at both the ecological and the economic impacts of climate change options adopted by smallholder farmers," said Butterbach-Bahl.
" We want to show the benefits of climate-smart agriculture and we intend to collect enough evidence to demonstrate these to policymakers to help in implementing climate-smart interventions.