The programme ― called climate-smart agriculture ― is being implemented by the research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
According to the CGIAR, farmers need to increase food production by 60 per cent to ensure food security while at the same time fighting climate change. CCAFS is working with 11 villages in East and West Africa to help smallholder farmers adopt innovative agricultural practices that can help them cope with climate change and enhance food security.
Researchers, development partners and farmers meet at the sites, known as 'Climate-Smart Villages', to test agricultural innovations that can help farmers adapt to climate change.
The countries participating in this project are Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.
John Recha, a participatory action research specialist with CCAFS, spoke about the programme during a media visit to Nyando ― a climate-smart village in Kenya ― last month (5 September).
Recha said: "A survey we conducted in this area early 2010 revealed that at least 40 per cent of the households do not have enough food for seven months a year; only five per cent can afford nutritious food a year".
He explained that farmers can no longer plant crops throughout the year because of delay in the long rains while the short rains sometimes fail completely.
"We have now introduced pigeon peas that are resistant to droughts and the farmers are appreciating the benefits," Recha told the media.
Lucas Juma, a smallholder farmer at Nyando, Kenya, tells SciDev.Net that the new pigeon peas have a shorter maturity period."We have also new technologies such as bacterial wilt kit that help us to fight bacteria," says Juma, adding that the kit has increased their production of tomatoes and other vegetables.
Another agricultural innovation being tested is the use of livestock such as poultry, goats and sheep that are disease-resistant and can mature faster than indigenous breeds.
James Kinyangi, the regional program leader for CCAFS in East Africa, says studies reveal that Kenya's future crop growing conditions will be variable.
"We are thus helping farmers prepare for both good and bad weather conditions through these innovations," Kinyangi notes.
He says that there is high need to strengthen capacity of research institutions such as public universities to build and strengthen climate change adaptive capacity.
Stephen Kinguyu of the climate change secretariat, Kenya's Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, tells SciDev.Net that it is crucial to involve farmers in climate change mitigation efforts.
"We need to sensitise our farmers on the impact of climate change and the role they have to play in its mitigation," says Kinguyu.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.