Adaptation to climate change is a critical issue for Kenya. Agriculture supports 80 per cent of the population, directly or indirectly through farming, agro-based industries and firms (GoK 2002). In addition to its critical role in food security, agriculture is also the basis for economic growth and employment creation, as most industries and manufacturing firms are agro-based.
As highlighted in Kenya’s national communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), likely impacts of climate change for Kenya include a decline in precipitation in the semi-arid areas, shortage of forage, increased incidences of waterborne diseases in humid areas, increased rates of depletion of biomass and poor nutrition (GoK 2002).
This case study focuses on seed fairs as a drought management strategy within the dryland areas of Kenya. The dryland areas of Kenya have experienced several droughts over the past decade and this is consistent with projections of future climate change. Kenya has had more than 15 serious droughts from 1950 to date. Due to this, numerous development and aid agencies have come in to help in the recovery process. Much of the help has been in form of food grain and seed aid that has been channelled to the communities through various approaches, seed fairs/shows being one of them. Farmers’ ability to acquire and maintain seeds is important for continued agricultural production. Contrary to the assumption by many aid and development agencies that during drought there is seed shortage within affected communities, seed fairs show that communities may still have seeds, and that the problem sometimes has more to do with access than actual scarcity. Eastern Kenya was chosen because it is one of the regions most affected by drought, with 32 per cent of the money spent by government and donor agencies on seed distribution since 1992 being used in the province (Makokha et al. 2004). Seed fairs have been used here predominantly to channel assistance given in the form of seeds to help both in the recovery process and also to enhance resilience by building people’s capacity to produce and store seeds for use locally. Studying how seed fairs have been used in drought recovery will shed light on how assistance given to communities during disasters can be used, not only to help them recover from a particular event, but also to strengthen their own coping strategies, institutions and economies that may prove valuable in the long run.
This case study demonstrates the importance of the use of holistic approaches by development, disaster relief agencies and governments in addressing needs of people affected by climaterelated disasters.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 36.4 (2005) Seed Fairs as a Drought Recovery Strategy in Kenya