Farmers urged to save rainwater to tackle food insecurity
13 November 2014, 10:25
Nairobi - Twelve years ago when Peter Njuguna, a small-scale farmer in Nakuru County, decided to venture into fish farming, he faced a major problem: water.
In his Njoro area, water scarcity is a common phenomenon. The residents depend on the rationed tap water.
The erratic water patterns have also not favored the farmers. The four-month-long period ranging from March to July was an anxiously awaited season: the lengthy rainy season.
But it was not time for Njuguna to wait for the rainy season, neither did he has stored water.
He needed water in his 80 by 26 feet, five feet deep fish pond to rear the 1,000 tilapia fingerlings he was to start off with. Forced by the prevailing circumstances, he bought 25,000 litres of water he needed.
"Depending solely on rain can be so disappointing these days because it never rains when we expect it," Njuguna told Xinhua during an interview on Tuesday. "Those days when we waited for the November rains to prepare our lands is no longer predictable."
And it is that lack of water at the most crucial time of his agricultural productivity that changed his system of farming.
Now, Njuguna who also operates four greenhouses under kales, strawberry, tomatoes and spinach, harvests water in each season of rain.
He said he has bought two septic tanks and constructed an underground tank with gutters from his three houses directed to the water harvesting structures. "In total, they hold 50,500 litres. I no longer have a problem with water to sprinkle crops in the greenhouses during the dry season," said Njuguna.
Harvesting of the rain water, the small-scale farmer said, has saved him the high costs of buying water to meet his domestic and farming needs.
"In a week, I require 100 litres, which would cost me an extra 23 U.S. dollars. This would greatly reduce my profits and savings, " he said.
Once again, it is the rainy season in Kenya, and according to the Meteorological Department, the season could stretch to December, a good season for the farmers like Njuguna to save water.
"Saving water in preparation for the dry season is the best thing a farmer can do if he wants to continue farming without any interruption," said Njuguna.
Agriculture is the main economic activity for the more than 80 percent of the population in Kenya, with rural households drawing direct livelihoods from it.
Unfortunately, the small-scale farmers continue to solely depend on rain to carry out their farming activities, a reliability which has resulted to crop failures, thereby endangering household food security.
"With the climatic variations being experienced in the country, it is not appropriate for the farmers to schedule their farming activities based on the rainy season," said Stephen Mureithi, a Nakuru-based agricultural officer with the Ministry of Agriculture.
About 33 percent of land in the East African nation is agriculturally productive with varying experiences of rainfall patterns according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Also read: Land Reclamation for sustainable agriculture in Mombasa
While the high potential areas receive more than 850 mm of annual rainfall, the medium receive between 730 mm and 850 mm with the low productive regions getting less than 610 mm.
As the country's leadership seeks to transform the system of farming, more boreholes are being constructed in the arid and semi- arid areas to increase water availability and accessibility for irrigation.
Prolonged drought has had adverse effects in the eastern, northern and coastal regions with some livestock and residents succumbing to the pangs of hunger and water scarcity.
"Farmers are equally advised to save rain water in either underground tanks, portable containers or tanks. They can also construct manageable ponds and water pans," said Mureithi, adding that increasing water accessibility during the dry season can boost food production by up to 30 percent.
The demand for water in Kenya is crucial as only 17 million Kenyans out of the censured 41 million can access safe water, according to the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Peter Waweru, executive director of the Sustainable Practical Program for Africa, an NGO engaged in training farmers in better farming and environmental conservation methods, said poor management of water has huge impacts on food production.
He said with the growing population, constrains on the available water resources are unavoidable as more is needed to meet both domestic and agricultural purposes.
"This therefore means that there must be proactive mechanisms aimed at increasing water reservoirs in every part of the country. This can be done through encouraging each household to embrace the culture of water harvesting," he said.
Exploration of the 200 billion cubic meters of water found in an aquifer in the northern part of the country is expected to bring relief to many citizens currently grappling with water scarcity.
Ministry of Environment projects that the water discovered through satellite technology by UNESCO scientists would boost the country's reservoirs by 8.5 percent, thereby improving accessibility of the resource to more than 41 percent of the population.
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