Climate Change and Agriculture in Kenya


Department of Meteorology, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya 'Corresponding author. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it


The economic growth of Kenya has been greatly contributed by the agricultural sector. Approximately, a fifth of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is as a result of agricultural sector. Besides, the agricultural sector adds to the foreign exchange earning of Kenya by about 50%. A greater percentage of people living in Kenya have agriculture as the main livelihood source. However, the agricultural industry significantly depends on rainfall.

Dependency on rainfall makes the agricultural industry extremely susceptible to the changing climate. This is due to the changing patterns of rainfall, extreme weather events, and increasing temperatures. Changing climate is real in Kenya and the harmful impacts are evident. The increased occurrences of pests and diseases have affected crop and livestock production. Besides, the frequent occurrence of drought in Kenya has led to death of many livestock in arid and semi-arid (ASAL) areas and hence, interfering with the livelihoods of the communities living in ASAL regions. Therefore, climate change effects levy a great risk to the agricultural sectors and also the future livings for most Kenyans especially those living in the rural regions.

This chapter has put more attention on the effects of changing climate on farming in Kenya. In addition, this chapter also looked at some adaptation measures as well as mitigation measures that have been put in place by both the government and NGOs with purpose of ensuring there is proper adaptation to the impacts of changing climate by the communities. This chapter has also focused on the policies at the national level as well as international level that are geared toward addressing adaptation measures and mitigation measures on agriculture.


Agriculture is a critical sector for the Kenyan government because agriculture helps in achieving food security, poverty alleviation, and rural livelihoods. This implies that the agricultural sector is the backbone of the Giller economy of Kenya (IITA, 2009). The agricultural sector in Kenya constitutes both crops and livestock. The agricultural industry in Kenya provides about 70% of occupation for rural people (Kabubo, 2008). In 2011, agricultural output constituted about 22% of the Kenyan GDP. Agriculture has been given the first priority in line with the Kenyan Vision 2030. The Vision 2030 focuses on achieving commercially oriented, an innovative, modem agricultural sector, and this will be achieved through increased productivity, increased market access, institutional reforms, and land use transformation (Cairns et al., 2013). This will be done in the ASAL parts of Kenya. In line with the economic pillar of Vision 2030, attaining annual growth of the economy by approximately 10% will be greatly driven by the sector of agriculture. This will be achieved through plans that have been set out under Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) 2010-2020 (GoK, 2010).

In Kenya, historically the growth of the economy has been associated with the growth and development of agricultural sector. Trend analysis has shown that the growth of the agricultural sector has been increasing annually by an average of about 2.4% increase annually in the year 2000 up to the year 2008 where it was affected by postelection violence. A greater percentage of farming in Kenya is small scale and about 75% of the agricultural output being produced depends on rainfall. About 16% of the total land area in Kenya is said to be from medium to high agricultural potential and this support about 80% of the Kenyan population. The remaining 84% of Kenya’s land area is ASAL and this supports the remaining 20% of the population of Kenya. With the changing climate, this will impact the food security status of the government of Kenya.

The changing climate is greatly distressing the agricultural sector and therefore, this makes the sector to be highly vulnerable. Over the last decades, Kenya has been experiencing variability in drought and floods and this is anticipated to increase as the climate is changing. Depletion of nutrient and also soil erosion is becoming a major concern due to the changing climate (Cai et al., 2014). This implies that food security is under threat. Use of poor farming technologies and techniques, and also cultivating the low potential land is causing the agricultural system to be unsustainable now and in the future (Adger et al., 2009). Therefore, this chapter will review some of the changing climate impacts on the agriculture and also address some of the adaptation and mitigation measures put in place by the government of Kenya toward combating the effects of climate Kenya.


In Kenya, the agricultural industry is highly vulnerable to climate change and therefore, there is a need for establishing adaptation measures that will ensure that there is food security. The change in rainfall patterns has resulted in great impact for both the livestock farmers and crop farmers. There is an increase in the occurrence of drought conditions in parts of Kenya and this has affected the agricultural harvest (Cooper et al., 2008). This increase in the occurrence in drought condition is attributed to reduced precipitation being received in every rainfall season in Kenya. Kenya has two seasons that most farmers depend on to enable them to carry on with their agricultural activities. The seasons are MAM (March to May) and OND (October to December). The MAM season is a long rainy period and OND is the short rain season. Trend analysis shows that the two seasons are shrinking, and this implies that little rainfall is received during these two seasons as compared to the past decades. The change is attributed to the changing climate.

The livestock division has also been affected by the changing climate condition over the last few years. A research carried out by Bryan et al. (2013) indicates that drought conditions in Kenya are resulting in mortality and morbidity of livestock. Many pastoralists have recorded huge losses as a result of drought conditions. Drought conditions affect the availability of grassland (pasture) and water for livestock consumption, and this forces many pastoralists to walk a long distance in pursuit of water and pasture. The increase in cases of droughts in part of Kenya, especially the ASAL areas is a result of the changing climate.

Climate change has caused great impact on the crop yield in Kenya especially food crops. Kenya has maize as its staple food, and therefore, impacts of climate change have caused a great reduction in the yield of maize in Kenya. This has led the country in a food insecurity situation. The reduction in the rainfall amount has led to reduced planting season and this implies that crops will not be able to reach maturity as a result of reduced water availability, which is essential for the growth of plants (Bryan et al., 2013). However, there are some regions in Kenya that are expected to have an increase in crop yield. This is due to the changing climate that is causing some regions to have a favorable climate for growing some crops.

The projected increase in an annual evaporation rate and annual temperature will have an impact on the water available for crops. This will also have an impact on livestock as the increase in annual temperature and evaporation will lead to a reduction in water and pasture for livestock. This implies that agricultural production will go down leading to a reduction in revenue earned horn exporting agricultural products (Cairns et al., 2012). At present, the ASAL regions of Kenya are experiencing drought frequently and this has led to a great loss in the livestock sector since those regions are occupied by the pastoralists (IFPRI, 2010; KARI, 2010).

In the year 2014, there was a reduction in the agricultural yield in Kenya and this was as a result of unreliable and low long rains and short rains. The reduction in agricultural yield resulted in the low rate of agricultural GDP. Besides, in the year 2013, there was a reduction of about 2.9% of the value- added agricultural GDP (World Bank, 2014).

In Kenya, the agricultural sector is viewed in three subsectors and these include fisheries, livestock, and crops. These three agricultural subsectors contribute to the agricultural GDP by about 2%, 20%, and 78%, respectively (FAO, 2012). However, the reduction in the amount of rainfall received coupled with an increasing temperature and evaporation rate has led to a reduction in the agricultural yield in three agricultural subsectors. For example, in the year 2011, about 3.5 million Kenyans were said to be food insecure, and this was as a result of the reduced rainfall amount during the long rainy season (FAO, 2012). The reduction of maize production was evident in the year 2013 which was about 38.9 million bags as compared to 39.7 million bags in the year 2012. Furthermore, drastic fall in maize production was evident in the 2013/2014 season where the amount of bags received were 28.9 million bags compared to the projected amount of bags that was 43.4 million bags of maize. This reduction in maize production and also other crops is attributed to the constant decrease in the amount of rainfall received every season. Similar impact has been felt in the livestock sector where there has been a fluctuation in the amount of livestock like sheep, cattle, and goats (IFPRI, 2010; KARI, 2010). Therefore, according to FAO (2012), climate change is triggering great impact on agriculture and especially the livestock sector. This means that measures should be put into action to ensure that future livestock production is maintained and well secured in order to protect the livelihoods of the people.

These graphs clearly show that climate change is causing great impact on agriculture and especially the livestock sector. This means that measures should be put into action to ensure that future livestock production is maintained and well secured.

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