Climate variability and change are some of the most pressing environmental challenges in semi-arid Kenya and Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) and are associated with persistent droughts, dry spells and erratic rains. The present study aimed at determining exposure and adaptation mechanisms among selected small-scale farmers cultivating drought tolerant crops in Wote, Makueni County, Eastern Kenya in the period 2003 to 2013. The sampled 120 farmers cultivate sorghum, cow peas and pigeon peas, which are some of the dominant multipurpose crops. Data collection methods included the use of semi-structured questionnaires. Results indicated that household level vulnerability was caused by exposure to extreme events: Drought (100%) and erratic rains (59%). Key drought adaptation means were drought resistant crops, 65%; terracing, 28%; and crop diversification, 13%. A multiple regression model, R2=0.319, indicated that age, gender and land size influenced adaptation choices significantly <0.05=0.027, 0.043 and 0.011, respectively. The results reveal prevailing exposure to extreme events at household level and further existing influence of responses by household social characteristics. From the results, the study mainly recommends adoption of alternative income activities, including on farm value addition, coupling of indigenous and modern adaptation mechanisms and provision of comprehensive climate information services.
Key words: Climate change and variability, vulnerability, adaptation, smallholder farmers, semi-arid, Kenya.
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