Patrick Mukuna who is enjoying bumper harvests of onions and kale, thanks to his investment in simple water harvesting technology. PHOTO | LEOPOLD OBI
- Water scarcity is one of the major challenges to sustainable food production the world over, and climate change experts warn that it will only get worse as the world’s population continues rising.
- As a result, organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the National Irrigation Board, Icraf, World Vision and the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) have come up with initiatives to enable farmers to harvest rainwater to cushion them from water stress.
- “It is important to increase investment in a range of water storage techniques, including banking groundwater during the wet season, harvesting rainwater and storing water in the ground by conserving soil moisture,” Bird says.
When most of his fellow farmers are complaining about plummeting yields due to lack of rain, Patrick Mukuna is enjoying bumper harvests of onions and kale, thanks to his investment in simple water harvesting technology.
The 51 year-old has a g five-acre farm in Munyu, Nakuru County, where he grows a variety of crops for sale.
“I dug a water pan about seven years ago. It resembles a lined pons and collects and stores runoff rainwater, which I use for irrigation,” he offers.
His pan has a capacity of 400 cubic metres, but he uses 1,000 litres a week.
He adds that he’s guaranteed constant water supply throughout the year, which enables him to run a solid crop production enterprise, which is his source of income and food security.
“I first pump the dam water into a tank before pumping it to drip pipes on the farm, “offers Mukunu, who uses a solar water pump to minimise operation costs.
“In a week, I earn at least Sh4,000 from vegetable sales,” he says. “I plan my farming in wuch a way that I harvest different crops throughout the year.”
He has subdivided his land into eighth-acre plots for crop diversification.
Also boasting a water pan is Kariuki Wachira, who says digging one is laborious, so the and 35 of his neighbours formed group to help each other with the digging. “It took us almost a week to dig a pan in every homestead, “he offers, adding that as a result, they do not experience water problems even during severe droughts.
Once a pan, which measures 20x20x3 metres, have been dug, an ultra-heat treated polythene sheet is spread on its base to prevent water from seep.
“The ultra-heat treated polythene paper costs more than Sh30,000, which many of us cannot afford, so we approached the World Wide Fund for nature (WWF), which gave us the sheets and manual water pumps,” says Kariuki.
Water scarcity is one of the major challenges to sustainable food production the world over, and climate change experts warn that it will only get worse as the world’s population continues rising. But local farmers can alleviate this situation by investing in water harvesting technologies and irrigation.
Kenya’s per capita water is less than 600 cubic metres, which is below the global threshold of 1,000, making it one of the chronically water-scarce nations.
But a recent study by the World Agroforestry Centre (Icraf) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) shows that Kenya’s rainwater potential is above 350 billion cubic metres, which raises hope for local farmers if they invest in rain-water harvesting.
While most farmers in the country have resources such as land and water, their productivity remains low due to inefficient water storage or application, experts say.
As a result, organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the National Irrigation Board, Icraf, World Vision and the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) have come up with initiatives to enable farmers to harvest rainwater to cushion them from water stress.
But Kenya’s water problem is, challenging: if millions are not threatened by severe drought, they are fighting to remain afloat amid raging floods.
“If captured and managed, this water is enough to support 233 million people, or close to five times the current population of Kenya,” said Icraf water management expert Maimbo Malesuduring the launch of the Billion Dollar Business Alliance.
The alliance is a programme created by the government in conjunction with a number organisations to increase per-capita water storage from less than 100 cubic metres in 2017 to a potential 7,400 cubic metres by 2030.
Globally, agriculture uses around 70 per cent of the freshwater supply. But water sources are increasingly under threat. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are drying up or becoming too polluted for use. More than half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared due to human activities and climate change, according to WWF.
Meanwhile, Conversation, an online forum where experts and researchers publish their reports, says increasing the amount of water availalbe for agriculture through water storage from field to reservoir is part of the solution.
Farmers will increasingly need to rely on water storage as part of the adaptation agenda, says Jeremy Bird, the managing director of the International Water Management Institute.
Increasing yield per unit of water used will be critical for agricultural adaptation. New efficient irrigation technologies such as drip and sprinkler irrigation are already showing considerable promise, he adds.
“It is important to increase investment in a range of water storage techniques, including banking groundwater during the wet season, harvesting rainwater and storing water in the ground by conserving soil moisture,” Bird says.
Victor Gitonga, a water engineer at SNV, says they have rolled out a four-year programme to help more than 20,000 farmers in five counties access smart water harvesting technologies.
Agriculture employs more than 60 per cent of Africa’s working population, but low productivity and high levels of food insecurity persist due to lack of, or inefficient, water application, Gitonga says.
By using less water and energy (solar power) to reduce their input costs, these small and medium-sized entrepreneurial farmers are expected to increase their income and profitability,” said Gitonga.
“Our aim is to increase the farmers’ productivity by at least 20 per cent by increasing water storage and application through technologies such as lined ponds, drip-irrigation kits and solar- powered water pumps,” explained Gitonga, adding that they mainly target farmers who are in it for business.