Agriculture Pivotal in Curbing Climate Change

climate change

French foreign minister and president-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (centre), raises hands with UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon and French president François Hollande. Photograph: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images (obtained from The Guardian)

After two weeks of intense negotiations between the 200 member countries at the Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris, an agreement on the way forward in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was reached. This ‘Paris Agreement’ has been lauded as ‘historic’, ‘the world’s greatest diplomatic success’ among many other superlatives.

In essence, the agreement marks the beginning of completely doing away with fossil fuels, keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100 with an ideal target of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C (2.7°F), developed countries sending $100 billion annually to their developing counterparts beginning in 2020 with the aim of helping the recipient countries adapt to the effects of climate change, all member countries reporting transparently on their progress towards meeting their climate commitments and submit new plans to strengthen them. In reaching this agreement, credit has to be given to the small island states which were pivotal in the formation of the “coalition of high ambition” that led to the final agreement.

However, in order to reach these goals, it is imperative to consider the contribution of Agriculture to global warming. While fossil fuels (and industrial processes) account for 65% of GHG emissions making it the largest contributor, agriculture accounts for 24% (including forestry and other land uses) when analysed by economic sector thus making it the 2nd largest contributing sector after electricity and heat production which accounts for 25%.


Source: IPCC (2014);  based on global emissions from 2010. Details about the sources included in these estimates can be found in the Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Of Agriculture’s contribution, livestock through the emission of methane and nitrous oxide accounts for 14.5 %. Of course the major livestock contributor is cattle, whether kept for dairy or meat, which accounts for 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions followed by followed by pig meat, (9 percent of emissions), buffalo milk and meat (8 percent), chicken meat and eggs (8 percent), and small ruminant milk and meat (6 percent). The remaining emissions are sourced to other poultry species and non-edible products.

What then does this mean for reduction of GHG emissions at the country level?

While for some countries fossil fuels accounts for a major proportion of GHG emissions, for others, it is agriculture that drives and is most burdened by GHG emissions.

For instance, in Ethiopia, livestock and crop cultivation are estimated to be responsible for more than half of total 39 emissions as of 2010. The share grows to around 85 percent of emissions when forestry is included. India produces the world’s second-largest volume of agricultural emissions, after China. Brazil comes third. Thus it is crucial for these countries to align their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to focus on agriculture. Some have done so, for example Brazil aims to restore 15 million hectares of degraded pasturelands and to enhance 5 million hectares of integrated cropland-livestock/forestry systems by 2030. It also commits to strengthening South-South cooperation in low-carbon, resilient agriculture and reforestation activities.

The linkages between Agriculture and Nutrition have been proven sufficiently; strong linkage exists between the two. As countries aim to give a positive report five years from now, it is prudent for the bearers of this noble task to keep in mind the relationship between the two.


NB: For more information Climate Change (and agriculture), follow the links below

Why cop21 is important to zero hunger

Climate-Smart Agriculture is key to ending hunger

Agriculture in the COP21 Agenda

Global Gas Greenhouse Emissions Data

Livestock’s contribution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

NB: As developing countries aim to generate much needed energy, it is crucial to focus more on renewable energy such as wind and solar as opposed to coal mining which my dear Kenya seems intent to jump into with little regard for its consequences.



A Tale of Two Governors; Mwangi Wa Iria and Alfred Mutua


It goes without saying that the promulgation of the new constitution in August, 2010 marked the beginning of a new era in Kenya . The impact of this constitution was to be felt in all sectors of the economy. This is especially so since many of the functions that were previously handled by the national government were to be devolved to the County government. Chief among these were agriculture, health and education. The fourth estate has so far done a wonderful job in highlighting the progress made my various county governments. Time and time again, two governors have caught the media’s eye. They have proven themselves developmental and unlike most governors in the country, they have given political shenanigans a wide berth and sought to deliver the pledges they made to their people. It is these two, Mwangi Wa Iria and Alfred Mutua that I shall attempt to profile especially in matters food and nutrition security.

Mwangi Wa Iria, the governor of Murang’a County rode into power on two pledges; to put money into people’s pockets and to better the grade of students in the County.

To meet these pledges, he sourced the expertise of Deloitte and Touch firm who drew a 1 year strategic plan. This plan was fed into the County’s 5-year strategic plan. Agriculture and Education were given highest priority.

In agriculture, the governor has invested Ksh 50 million in fertiliser and seed subsidy. This is in addition to the fertiliser subsidy offered by the national government. The county subsidy targets 6,500 farmers. It is also used in the acquisition of several drought resistant crops such as Soya, sweet potato and Katumani beans to be planted in the semi-arid areas of the county.

He has also invested Ksh 200 million in an irrigation scheme covering 1000 acres that is to benefit 10,000 farmers. This scheme will focus on growing of rice and horticultural crops. It is envisioned that the county shall be able to produce enough for its own consumption but more importantly for sale to other counties.

In April, this year, Mwangi Wa Iria invested Ksh 500 million in the purchase of 35 milk coolers for every ward. Youth and women were encouraged to form groups wherein they would be given a heifer with which to start a dairy herd. I suppose, as a former managing director of the New Kenya Cooperative Creameries, investment in the dairy sector was in the offing.

Perhaps the most innovative investment strategy that the governor has employed is the formation of Murang’a Investment Cooperative Sacco (MICS). The Sacco aims to raise funds from the county residents for investment in real estate, energy and agro-processing. It seems to have been borrowed from Rwanda’s Agaciro fund whose main function is to lessen the country’s dependence on foreign aid. To their credit, members of the county assembly seem to be the only ones in Kenya who have drawn lessons from those expensive learning trips to Rwanda.

In education, the governor has invested Ksh 70 million in a bursary for bright and needy students in the County. Furthermore, he has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Kenyatta University to advance agribusiness initiatives in the County.

On the other hand, Alfred Mutua seems to pick his development agenda from a handbook of trickledown economics.

He has made several investments in recreational infrastructure such as the Machakos People’s park and the Machakos stadium. These investments, combined with flamboyant public relations machinery, have seen Machakos be the darling of Nairobi’s middle class. The hosting of several music concerts and rugby tournaments in Machakos town is a testament to this fact.

In recent times, he has flaunted the Kitumani-Makutano ma Mwala road as the ‘fastest built highway in Kenya and possibly in Africa’. Built at a cost of Ksh 650 million instead of the proposed Ksh 1.6 billion, Alfred Mutua has publicised the infrastructure as an African lesson in austerity. However, doubts have been raised about the quality and durability of the road and his ‘Maendeleo Chap Chap’ philosophy. It is because of this that many political pundits question his long term commitment to the people of Machakos County. They view his handling of Machakos County as a convenient stepping stone to a higher political office. But I digress.

Other investments in the pipeline by my Mutua include digging of boreholes (800), dams and pans (820) and raised water tanks (896).

He has also set aside money (figures not provided) for provision of free tractors, subsidised fertilisers, free chicks, seeds and greenhouses for 20 women groups in each of the 40 wards in the county. However, the actualisation of these investments remains to be seen.

To his credit, education in primary schools in the County have received a boost due to a Ksh 250 million in the supplementary budget allocated for School Feeding Programs and other food relief programs in the county.

Perhaps the most significant investment undertaken by Alfred Mutua is the purchasing of 80 ambulances (70 vans and 10 motorcycles) and upgrading the 40 community health centres in each ward to community hospitals. Considering that 360 women per 100,000 live births died in Kenya in 2013 and 73 children out of 1000 births die before the age of five, any investment to reduce the maternal and infant mortality rate in Kenya is very much welcome. Indeed as the governor stated in his speech during the launch of the ambulances (in flamboyance of course), perhaps Machakos county (or the Government of Machakos as the Dr prefers) would see an end to the naming of children as ‘Nzia’ meaning one born by the roadside.

So there is the brief profile of the soft spoken Mwangi Wa Iria and the stylish Alfred Mutua (Dr I should add). Come 2017 the scorecard of governors will be in the offing. I bet that residents of Murang’a County will have more money in their pockets (Ksh 200/day up from the current Ksh 63/day) and her children would record higher grades. I also bet that the living standards in Machakos County will have improved immensely. However, much of this will be evident in Machakos town and other peri-urban areas rather than the rural areas. Thus, if given a choice, I would rather be a resident in Murang’a County.

The Role of Youths In Agriculture in the EAC

On the 4th of November, I, among other youths from the East African Community (EAC) gathered in Kampala, Uganda, to deliberate on our involvement in agriculture. The outcomes of this pre-symposium were designed to feed into the International Symposium and Exhibition on Agricultural Development in the EAC partner states. All the EAC member states will have attained 50 years of independence by the end of the year. It was thus pivotal that progress made in agriculture in the past be evaluated and forge plans for the future. In doing this, our role in agriculture could not be overlooked. We shared our experiences in production, value addition, agribusiness, inputs supply and innovations in agriculture. It was evident that youths involved in agriculture were making considerable strides despite the numerous challenges we faced. Some of the major challenges discussed included access to credit, competition from larger companies for start-ups, market access and bureaucracies in licensing and obtaining information.

Nonetheless, the pre-symposium begged the question, why should more youth be involved in agriculture and secondly, why were they shying away from the trade? Several attempts were made to answer these questions.

It was noted that the East African region boasts of the youngest population in the world. More than 60% of the population consists of persons between 0-24 years. Uganda leads the pack with this age group consisting of 73 % of its population. It is this bulging youth population that necessitates changes in the way development is approached. This change is further made crucial by projections showing population growth in the next 30 years in all EAC member states will occur in the urban areas. Hence, the need to increase food supply to these areas is inevitable. Given that all the member states hope to achieve middle income status by the year 2040, it is reasonable to assume that the demand for animal protein will increase as the middle class increases.

In order to feed the growing population in the cities, there is need to focus on the rural youth. The rural youth have the golden opportunity of supplying urban areas with food given the availability of large tracts of arable land in the rural areas as opposed to the cities. However, much of this land is owned by the older population. The average age of arable land tenure in the member states is between 50 and 60 years. Kenya leads the pack with the average farmer being 57 years old. It is these dynamics that need due consideration in planning food and nutrition security programmes.

It was also duly noted that development in the region highly favoured urban development as opposed to rural development. This was seen as the major driver of rural-urban migration. A dwindling able-bodied population in the rural areas poses a great barrier to production of food. Furthermore, there is only a 20% chance of the youth gaining meaningful employment in the cities. It is thus crucial that the youth be more involved in agriculture not only for their welfare but for the food security of EAC inhabitants, especially in the city. However, in order to achieve this, there is need to focus on rural development. Improving the state of the roads and networks in the rural areas would greatly improve food distribution channels and mechanisms. Furthermore, efforts in infrastructure developments such as rural electrification would attract agro-based industries to the rural areas as the proximity to raw materials would greatly reduce costs of production. Such improvements would inevitably reduce rural-urban migration and furthermore, attract and retain the youth in agriculture.

All in all, on the podium, the pre-symposium concluded that it is no longer important that the youth be involved in Food and Nutrition security programmes. It is imperative. However, off the podium, there was general scepticism among the youth participants as to whether this would be realized in the near future.

NB: A taste of Uganda’s Hospitality