Climate & Agriculture

A range of weather

Kenya lies on the Equator, but with the land rising from sea-level to over 5,000 metres, climate varies across the country. Broadly, there are four main land-types and climate zones:

The altitude effect

Temperatures drop around 6°C for every 1,000 metres.

1) Central Highlands and Rift Valley

Most of Kenya’s agricultural output – especially tea – is grown in this region, which has fertile soils and a high annual rainfall in the mountains (up to 3,000mm). This rain feeds into the lakes of the Rift Valley. Average daytime temperatures in Nairobi (altitude 1,661m) are between 21-26°C.

Kenyan scenery

2) Western Kenya

Western Kenya is hot and wet throughout the year, with annual rainfall over 1,000mm and average daytime temperatures in Kisumu of 27-29°C.

3) Northern and Eastern Kenya

Here the land is hot and arid, with vast ‘lake’ beds/deserts of lava, sand, salt and soda. Average annual rainfall is less than 510mm and daytime temperatures are mostly in the 30s°C, soaring to 39°C in some desert areas.

4) Coastal Belt

Kenya’s beaches are hot and humid, but tempered with cooling sea breezes. A narrow plain of land along the coast is suitable for crops such as fruits, nuts and cotton, before the terrain becomes semi-desert. Annual rainfall is usually over 1,000mm and daytime temperatures in Mombasa average 28-31°C.

Protecting Kenya’s agriculture and climate

Domestic crops

Sugar cane, maize, plantains and beans, as well as meat and dairy products are grown mainly for local consumption.

Agriculture plays an important role in Kenya’s economy, accounting for around half of the country’s exports.Tea is the main earner, but vegetables, coffee, fruit, cotton and flowers are also important.

Since many Kenyan’s rely on agriculture for their livelihood, unpredictable rainfall patterns are a serious worry for the future.

There is particular concern that recent droughts have been worsened by local deforestation. Kenya’s Green Belt Movement (led by Professor Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize) has spearheaded the planting of more than 30 million trees.This may sound like a lot of trees. But Kenyan forests have shrunk 60% in just two decades, with wood cut down for fuel and land used for farming.

Kenya’s Mau forest is especially important, acting like a huge water-tower for the country. The forest absorbs water during the rainy season and then releases it slowly through 12 rivers. Environmentalists warn that unless this forest is conserved, more droughts will occur.