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KARI acknowledges that climate variability and change is a threat to sustainable development. The projected impact of climate change is expected to impact on many sectors such as environment, human health, food security, economic activities, natural resources and the physical infrastructure. This calls for planned adaptation. Meanwhile adaptive capacity is influenced by various factors which include wealth, technology, education, information, skills, infrastructure, access to resources and management capabilities. Currently, there is high variability amongst populations and communities in their endowments with these attributes making Kenya very vulnerable to climate change. The increasing vulnerability of pastoralists’ livelihoods to these climatic events (increases in frequency and length of drought periods) is a pressing problem in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas and which has further been enhanced by socio-economic and political factors. Therefore, climate change adaptation and mitigation research is one of KARI’s thematic focal areas as stipulated in its Strategic Plan 2009-2014. Prior to 2010, KARI did not have a programme or a unit dealing with issues of climate variability/change. Thus, some aspects that could constitute adaptation and mitigation to climate change were being addressed in projects falling under various KARI programmes such as irrigation and drainage, soil and water management, soil fertility, crop breeding, livestock health and production.
KARI launched its Climate Change Unit (CCU) on the 27th May 2010, to serve as a focal point for climate change related research within KARI. The unit aims to develop the capacity of KARI scientists to understand and develop adaptation technologies and techniques to help smallholder farmers and pastoralists to respond to the effects of climate change. In particular, KARI CCU objectives are:
Operation of the KARI Climate Change Unit (KCCU). The KCCU is operating under the Environment Research sub-program of the Natural Resource Management Program in liaison with the Deputy Director of Research and Technology. The unit receives backstopping from Climate Change Representatives based at various KARI research centres. Coordination of the unit is done by the Coordinator, Environmental Research and other KARI scientists. The KCCU role is to mainstream and oversee implementation of climate change adaptation research in KARI. Specifically, it guides and supports KARI scientists in matters pertaining to
i) Vulnerability Assessment.
ii) Climate variability/change adaptation planning, strategies, policies and measures
iii) Climate Change Mitigation.