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Food security and seasonal climate information: Kenyan challenges


This article examines challenges to food security in areas especially vulnerable to the effects of climate variability and change, and the potential contribution of seasonal climate forecasting. Drawing on long-term study of the way environmental information is developed and circulates, and on recent fieldwork in Western Kenya, the article describes how climate variability exacerbates food insecurity; the kinds of climate information that are now being developed; and the kinds of technologies, organizations, and expertise that will be needed if new forms of climate information are to benefit vulnerable populations. Findings indicate that new forms of expertise need to be developed at all scales, and that linkage among stakeholders and between organizations functioning at different scales will be a considerable challenge.

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    The 1996 Rome declaration includes the commitment to achieving food security for all and eradicating hunger in all countries, with a view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half by 2015.

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    Associated Press (9 January 2009) Kenya: 10 million risk hunger after harvests fail ( MSNBC, accessed 16 January 2009.

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    On 16 January 2009, President Mwai Kibaki declared the current food crisis a National Disaster and launched a campaign to raise over 37 billion shillings required to address the urgent situation (, accessed 24 January 2009).

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    See Keynote Address,, accessed 1 May 2007.

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    Statement released from the GHACOF 23 that was held in Mombasa, Kenya, 2–4 March 2009 (see

  6. 6.

    Tacchi defines “communicative ecology” as a milieu of agents who are connected in various ways by various exchanges of mediated and unmediated forms of communication. According to Tacchi, communication is based on the principle that in order to understand one aspect of communication with particular settings, you need to understand how it fits into the wider ‘communicative ecologies’—meaning use, function, flow, channels and interconnectedness.

  7. 7.

    Elsewhere, K. Fortun examines in greater depth and argues for the importance of complex digital information systems to support environmental assessment (2004).


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This field research was supported financially by the Humanities, Arts, Architecture and Social Science (HAAS) Fellowship, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The completion of this manuscript was made possible by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) fellowship award. Although many individuals have contributed in many ways, we take responsibility for the material presented in this article.

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Correspondence to Kim Fortun.

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Edited by Mitsuru Osaki and Ademola Braimoh, Hokkaido University, Japan.

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Rarieya, M., Fortun, K. Food security and seasonal climate information: Kenyan challenges. Sustain Sci 5, 99–114 (2010).

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  • Climate variability and change
  • Environmental degradation
  • Food security
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Modes of expertise
  • Climate forecast information