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Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa (CHIESA)

The Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security program focused on increasing knowledge on climate change impacts and adaptation strategies in 3 highland ecosystems in East Africa
Venantious Musonda


The Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security (CHIESA) project was a four-year (2011-2015) research and development program funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and coordinated by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Nairobi, Kenya. CHIESA Project activities focused on three highland ecosystems in Eastern Africa, namely Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Taita Hills in Kenya and Jimma Highlands in Ethiopia.

Climate change is a global phenomenon whose impacts vary significantly across different geographical regions. Countries where people and their livelihoods rely heavily on land-based resources, such as rain-fed agricultural production, are most adversely affected by the impacts of changing climate. The adaptive capacity of the smallholder farmers varies from one region to another, but on average they can be considered as poor, and greatly exposed to climatic risks reducing their food security which often makes them the most vulnerable group regarding climate change.

Climate change impacts coupled with human-induced land use and land cover change further intensify the negative effects on ecosystems, such as deforestation, habitat degradation and loss, which eventually threaten the provision of key ecosystem services, such as pollination, biological pest control and fresh water availability, which are key components of agricultural production. A general lack of scientific information on the impacts of climate change for example on insect pests, biodiversity and habitats in highland and mountainous areas was the main reason why this project was established to provide science-based area-specific interventions and adaptation options for the smallholder farmer communities. At the onset of the project, available models and projections on climate change had not taken into account how crop diseases, insect pests, their natural enemies and pollinators are affected by climate change and how this contributed to food insecurity. This knowledge gap partly reflected an overall deficit of on-the-ground capacity for climate change research, monitoring and adaptation in Eastern Africa.

The main objectives of the project therefore, were

  • To increase knowledge on the impacts of climate change on ecosystem services and food security in the Eastern Afro-montane Biodiversity Hotspot.
  • To build climate change adaptation capacity of Eastern African research institutions, extension agencies and other local organizations and decision-makers through research collaboration and training.

The project carried out extensive research activities to fill the identified gaps in knowledge on the impacts of climate change on ecosystem services, such as biological pest control and water provision, and on food security in these montane agro-ecosystems.

Adaptation Options

  • The climate change adaptation process was initiated through the implementation of technical solutions, such as the small-scale drip irrigation systems, rain roof water harvesting systems and conservation agriculture demonstration plots in selected individual farms and public institutions such as schools.
  • To transfer modern water use technology, the project installed 24 drip irrigation kits in the Taita Hills and Mount Kilimanjaro to showcase the difference in efficiency of water use as a key adaptation strategy which also helps generating extra income to the farmers through horticultural crops. Drip irrigation kits were also installed to the farms owned by persons with disabilities to reach out to the minority groups in the areas. Gender balance was addressed in the selection of locations for the demonstration plots.

Video: Drip irrigation instalation in Taita Hills, Kenya

  • Field schools and exchange visits were organized to the demonstration sites and other areas where best practices for adaptation have been established. This helped to showcase the success factors that farmers and institutional stakeholders could adopt and tailor for their own situations.
  • Integrated Pest Management which utilizes the natural enemies of the pest insects will continue to be an important mechanism to enhance ecosystem functionality, reduce dependence of farmers on pesticides, and enhance agricultural production to improve food security. Insect pest damage for maize, crucifers, coffee and avocado are projected to increase, especially on the higher altitudes that is currently experienced due to warming temperatures there which creates optimal conditions for insect species growth, reproduction and survival.

Methods and Tools

Research: The CHIESA project carried out extensive field research activities to fill the identified gaps in knowledge on the impacts of climate change on ecosystem services, such as biological pest control and water provision, and on food security in the montane agro- ecosystems in Jimma Highlands in Ethiopia, in the Taita Hills in Kenya, and in Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. These research results were useful in developing and testing efficient adaptation strategies, such as Integrated Pest Management, drip irrigation, roof rain water harvesting and conservation agriculture.

Local community involvement: The local farming communities were the main beneficiaries of the CHIESA project and active participants in technology transfer and training activities. The local community members, including the youth, and people living with disabilities, and local leaders actively participated in the process to develop the community-based climate change adaptation action plans. The developed adaptation action plans for each of the three areas integrated the locally prioritized adaptation needs with the national and regional development plans and climate change adaptation strategies. These provide information and advice to decision-makers on interventions that are required to overcome existing barriers in order to reduce vulnerability of smallholder farmers to the impacts of increasing temperatures, variability in rainfall and extreme weather events, such as floods and dry spells.

Capacity Building: CHIESA mainly focused on the instruments, tools and environmentally-friendly technologies that can be utilized to reduce the vulnerabilities of communities to the impacts of climate variability and climate change. The project built the capacity of local farmers through farmer field schools and demonstration plots developed in each area as an avenue for neighboring farmers to observe change in yields and learn about Integrated Pest Management and drip irrigation, among other things.


Video: Building the capacity of female coffee farmers in Jimma Highlands, Ethiopia

Information Dissemination: The general public received information on climate change impacts and adaptation options through national and local media which the project collaborated with in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. To further enhance dissemination of climate change adaptation strategies the project trained 38 journalists from 20 media houses in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia on climate change reporting and involved them in the dissemination of project findings in their respective areas. Sensitization and environmental education of youth and science teachers was carried out in the three target areas through climate-related art competitions, tree planting activities in schools and building the capacity of teachers in seminars and short courses. The use of digital media, such as internet, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, was also used in communication as findings become available from the project components.

Involving the decision-makers: Local and national decision makers were involved in the process of developing the community-based adaptation action plans. Permanent Secretaries and other key decision-makers were the members of CHIESA Project Supervisory Board to give advice, directions for activities, and approved reports. Information was also shared with the leaders through policy briefs generated from the project research results. 13 policy briefs generated from the project research were distributed to local authorities, agricultural research institutions and farmers during workshops and seminars.

The Policy Briefs are available here:

Key Messages

  1. Active involvement of all the members of the community (leaders, women, youth, men and people living with disabilities) in developing adaptation options is critical as it incorporates different priorities and concerns into the planned interventions which helps avoid maladaptation and biased actions. Multi-stakeholder discussion and design platforms also create a sense of ownership and sustainability of the adaptation activities within the communities. Participatory and consultative process in the formulation of climate change adaptation plans and strategies is also important for the community’s sense of ownership and success of the proposed strategies. Participatory scenario building was identified as a fruitful and valuable method for collecting future visions from different groups of the communities.
  2. While women’s empowerment is important for gender equality, the role of men as the final decision-makers in the majority of households should also be considered. Men who are often the heads of households largely determine the selected responses to experienced risks and problems in the smallholder farms, and have a final say in adoption of recommended adaptation interventions. Therefore men should be fully included in any future demonstration and awareness-raising activities. The situations are, of course, area-specific but equal opportunities for both genders should be facilitated to generate sustainable adaptation options.
  3. Integrated adaptation approaches are most effective, for example, combining drip irrigation and IPM technologies to ensure sustained crop yields.
  4. There is a need for area-specific and downscaled adaptation strategies, so that the designed tools are targeted to specific users in the target areas. Therefore, different adaptation tools would be available for farmers, local authorities or policy-makers to inform their decision-making to avoid dependence on decisions from other stakeholders.
  5. Constant interaction and consultation between different stakeholders provides a good opportunity for information sharing. Through this interaction it was realized that the local communities have a wealth of indigenous knowledge and practices on the environment, food security and climate change and variability that can be useful in informing the area-specific adaptation technologies.

Lessons learnt

  • For effective adaptation, the main focus should be on non-climate stressors facing communities in order to address the underlying causes of climate change-induced challenges which mostly result from human actions due to socio-economic rather than climatic drivers.
  • To effectively enhance the resilience of communities, build their adaptive capacity to design responses to the impacts of projected climatic variability and extreme climatic events, capacity building at all levels, including continuous training and awareness is crucial.
  • Participatory approaches present a good opportunity to capture the needs and priorities of communities, address local vulnerability factors and ensure ownership and hence sustainability of adaptation responses.

Video: Creating Awareness on Climate change among students using art and tree planting activities

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