Feature: Cold weather hands Kenyan climate-smart farmers boom

Source: Xinhua| 2021-07-07 00:01:03|Editor: huaxia
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NAIROBI, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Inside Antony Kariuki's two 8-meter by 15-meter greenhouses in Isinya, Kajiado County, south of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, cucumbers and tomatoes thrive.

The farmer is currently harvesting the crops that he grew in April and he has a ready market for the produce in the sprawling urban areas in the county.

"I cannot satisfy the market," said Kariuki Monday. "These cucumbers are already booked even before I harvest. I normally harvest at least 100 kilos every Monday, with each going at 110 shillings (about 1 U.S. dollar)."

While Kariuki is harvesting handsomely from his structure, farmers in the east African nation growing the crops in the open field are reaping losses as colder weather hits the country.

The cold spell has affected the production of particularly horticultural crops as chilly weather diseases set in.

The chilly spell started earlier in May instead of July and it has been ravaging various areas across the east African nation as temperatures in some regions fall to a low of three degrees celsius.

In Nairobi and its environs, lower temperatures average 10 degrees Celsius and the highest 18 degrees Celsius, according to the Kenya Meteorological Department's latest forecast.

This is from an average of 24 degrees Celsius during the day and 18 degrees Celsius at night.

"The cold weather provides a perfect environment for diseases in particular blight to thrive," said Beatrice Macharia, an agronomist with Growth Point, an agro-consultancy.

She noted that farmers growing horticultural crops in the field, in particular, tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers, potatoes, and onions are having it rough due to the chilly weather.

"They have to spend more and fight the disease through the use of chemicals that protect the crops but still this is not working for some," Macharia said.

According to her, Kenya has recorded a lengthy cold season this year, with temperatures falling to the lowest levels.

"In areas in the Rift Valley like Nyandarua where temperatures are falling to 3 degrees Celsius, even with application of chemicals, chances of survival for field horticultural crops are too low," she said, noting that growing crops in greenhouses is a climate-smart approach as the structure protects crops from blight.

"When outside temperatures are about 10 degrees Celsius, inside the greenhouse they will be about 15 degrees Celsius thus protecting the crop," she said.

Bernard Njuguna, a farmer in the Rift Valley, is among those in Kenya who have reaped losses due to the cold weather.

He grew his field tomatoes in late April and expected to harvest some three months later.

The cold weather in Nyandarua where he farms wiped out the crop as it was flowering despite the use of various chemicals to save it.

"The crop on the entire half-acre withered; the leaves and the stems dried leaving me with losses," he said.

He has since erected a greenhouse on his farm following advice from agricultural officers.

With few farmers growing crops in greenhouses under irrigation as compared to open fields, the supply of fresh produce in the east African nation has declined to push up prices.

A kilo of tomatoes is currently being sold at 0.74 dollars, up from 0.46 dollars in April. The cost of other horticultural produce has also skyrocketed, pushing up food inflation in the east African nation.

Macharia attributed the colder spell to effects of climate change that are ravaging the east African nation, including breadbaskets, with the weather oscillating between chilly, dry spells to periods with little rainfall. Enditem