Climate-resilient horticulture for sustainable county development in Kenya

Esther M. Patrick, Jessica Koge, Emiel Zwarts, John M. Wesonga, Joanes O. Atela, Charles Tonui, Catherine Kilelu, Hasse Goosen, Ingrid Coninx, Irene Koomen

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional


Climate change presents one of the greatest challenges to the productivity and sustainable growth of the agricultural sector in Kenya due to extreme events such as droughts and floods as well as changes in temperature. Horticultural crops are particularly sensitive to climate change because of their high water demand and strict temperature requirements. Increased or decreased rainfall and increased temperature result in drought or flooding, lack of water for irrigation, and pests and diseases epidemic can affect the suitability of areas for growing horticultural crops. Understanding the impacts of climate for a given crop under specific conditions is key to supporting further development of the horticulture sector. While horticulture is a priority economic subsector in many counties, it is not known how the counties position themselves with regard to dealing with climate change threats in the sector. A review of the literature shows how climate change significantly affects the performance of horticultural crops across a variety of climatic zones and that counties need to be better prepared to address these effects. Horticulture covers myriad crops (including fruits and vegetables), which are affected by climate change in different ways. Seasonal patterns, both for temperature as well as (onset of) rainfall are changing. Temperature thresholds for specific crops are being exceeded, while some areas are now more favourable for growing certain crops where previously temperatures were too low. Suboptimal temperatures affect both the yield and quality of produce. The horticulture sector has also experienced incidences of pests, such as Tuta absoluta on tomato; climate change is a confounding factor to the spread and establishment of these pests. Agriculture which is highly affected by climate change is devolved to counties; as such, policies relevant to it are expected to be implemented at county level. An analysis of the County Integrated Development Plans showed that horticulture is a high-value subsector that plays a major role in generating revenue for county development. Most counties have prioritized horticulture and made substantial investments. Climate change is acknowledged as a threat to different sectors, but there is only scant analysis of the factors causing it, effects it will have and proposed responses to it. Farmers and crop officers from Kiambu and Kajiado counties are aware of climate change and its effects on horticulture. However, understanding of the relationship between cause and effect and of possible mitigating actions is weak. We observed that at all levels, in the field as well as at county level, preparedness for climate change is low and government support to the farmers is also limited. Due attention and informed decision-making based on, for example the Kenya Climate Atlas that is currently being developed, is required.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Centre for Development Innovation
Number of pages49
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameReport / Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation
Name3R research report


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