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Friday, 21 November 2014

Matwiku Horticulture Group trained on Climate Smart Agriculture

By Noah Lusaka and Bob Aston
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) in collaboration with SunCulture Company trained Matwiku farmers on installation and management of a drip irrigation system as a practice that enhances climate smart agriculture. The project that is funded by Act Change Transform (Act!)  aims to strengthen communities’ resilience to impacts of climate change while conserving natural resources in Laikipia County.
The members laying out the water piping system
Climate smart agriculture entails reducing emissions at the farm level, conserving natural resources like soils and water while increasing nutritious food production at household level and at the same time increasing family incomes.
The unique project is implemented by Matwiku Horticulture Growers self help group in Ng’arua, Lakipia West. The group was formed in January 2014 to champion the interests of farmers in Matwiku village. The group comprises 22 members, nineteen male and three female.
The members of the group attended a five (5) days capacity building training on climate smart agriculture, drip irrigation installation and water harvesting technologies from 14th to 18th November 2014.
The group availed a one acre piece of land for setting up the demonstration where they plan to plant tomatoes and capsicum.
The training process
Twenty seven (27) participants attended the five days training on installation of drip irrigation and management of the system. The process involved erecting a water tank stand with an elevation of three (3) metres above the ground. This will ensure there is enough pressure for water to irrigate one acre. The project procured a water tank for the group with capacity of 5000 litres. Using the drip irrigation system, less water is used per acre since the water targets the root zone of the crops.
The participants were trained on setting up the system that involved digging trenches to lay out the water piping system. The one acre farm was subdivided into 8 smaller plots and each plot installed with a gate valve for controlling water during irrigation.
 The drip irrigation tapes were then connected to the water pipes and laid throughout the one acre piece of land where one raised bed had two drip tapes. The final stage involved mounting the water storage tank to the stand and connecting the water supply system.
The members connecting drip tapes
To ensure that the drip tapes do not clog, a water filter was fixed at the tank outlet. The participants learned that it is important to check and clean the filter regularly to ensure smooth water supply to the farm. To test the drip irrigation system, the storage tank was filled with water and each of the eight farm units opened at intervals for water to drip and wet the soil. The participants learned that the crops have to be planted at the wetted spots.
The Many benefits of drip irrigation
The participants learned the many benefits of using drip irrigation that includes; reduced work load in the farm, conservation of water resources, minimal soil erosion, ability to use liquid manures, uniformity in crops grown, energy conservation and reduction of emissions since less fuel is used, leaching and nutrients loss is reduced and fewer weeds.

Farmer Experiences with other irrigation systems
Furrow and basin irrigation are two of the most widely used types of irrigation in Matwiku prior to introduction of drip irrigation.
Raphael Wa Mutito, 18 years old who attended the five (5) days capacity building training, narrated how they usually spend six (6) to eight (8) hours irrigating a one (1) acre piece of land using  furrow irrigation. The water source is a natural pond about 20 metres away from the farm.
He said that they usually spend at least six (6) litres of petrol to pump water for irrigating one acre.  A litre of petrol costs Ksh 108/= in the area, therefore farmers incur a cost of ksh 648/= every time they irrigate. Most farmers irrigate their farms twice per week therefore spending Ksh 1,296/= . After three months when they harvest horticulture products they usually spend over Ksh 15,552/= on fuel for irrigation alone.
Members preparing to place the water tank on the erected water tank stand

Raphael was particularly impressed with the duration that it will take to irrigate land under drip irrigation. He learned that with drip irrigation system, a farmer will spend less than one (1) hour irrigating one acre piece of land and use 0.5 litres of fuel to fill the 5000 litre water tank.

The 6 litres that they are currently spending per day can now be used to pump 60,000 litres of water. This signifies a drastic reduction in fuel costs and in the long run a reduction of emissions.
“I am now able to train other farmers on drip irrigation installation. The training has really benefited me. I hope that soon I will be able to buy my own drip irrigation kit,” said Raphael.
Matwiku group’s vision

Mr. Peter Gicheru, Secretary, Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self Help Group said that the drip irrigation will help the group minimize the time that they take to irrigate their farms.

 “We hope that our revolving fund will go faster so that we can install drip irrigation for all members of the group. Members are really excited with this project. We expect that other farmers will also be able to benefit from what we have learned,” said Gicheru.

The drip irrigation system makes it cheaper and easier for farmers to grow crops throughout the year without feeling the burden of climate change. The participants appreciated the system noting that the system is efficient and will enable them undertake other productive activities off the farm. They will be able to produce food throughout the year without relying on rainfall.
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