More help needed to avert famine in the future
"My belief is we need to act. We need to act to let people survive right now. We don't need to know whether we're surviving through climate variability or climate change. So if early warning systems can work well for now -- people may be able to survive," said Ouma.
But there is also a hard reality that development as usual will fall short in the face of wholesale climate shifts. Without millions of dollars in annual climate adaptation aid to invest in more expensive irrigation and road infrastructure and researching new seed varieties, Kenya's hope to reliably feed itself could hit a wall.
Nkonya said Kenya's government is aggressively promoting agricultural investments in irrigation, at least relative to neighboring Uganda. To compare the countries' policies, he studied pairs of similar villagers in places that straddle the national border and found Kenyan farmers faring better and deploying more irrigation.
Others, however, are critical that government investments aren't coming nearly quickly enough. "There is no political will to invest in agriculture," said Claudia Ringler, another International Food Policy Research Institute research fellow. "Urban elites run the country, and poor have little pull," she said.
Ouma said the project has been successful in Sakai, but was clear about its limits. "The biggest fear -- the biggest weakness -- is the dependence on rainfall. If it doesn't rain, it doesn't rain. There's nothing you can do," he said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500