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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Water harvesting boosts farmer’s yields

By Bob Aston
Water scarcity and climate change form a dual challenge to food and environmental security. Although water is a basic necessity, it is one of the most challenging resources for communities to access.  Very few farmers have adopted modern water harvesting technologies and as a result are unable to supplement water sources.
In Wangwaci area of Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia County, the sparse and intermittent rainfall in the region has negatively affected most farmers and households as most of the water sources in the area have dried up. Despite the scarcity of water, Francis Kirago Njoroge has not yet started feeling the impact of lack of water as he has heavily invested in water harvesting technologies.
Kirago next to one of his water tanks
“I have been investing in water harvesting technologies for quite some time. I wanted to be able to have enough water for domestic use and also to be able to do irrigation. This led me to start developing new sources of domestic water supply using affordable rainwater harvesting technologies,” said Kirago.
He worked with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation from 1978 to 2014 as a water supplies operation and maintenance officer. During this period the knowledge and experience that he gained and specifically on water harvesting helped him to start harvesting rain water at his homestead from 2012.
He has been actively teaching farmers in the area on how to utilize the little water resource available. So far he has spent more than Ksh 250,000 in implementing the water harvesting technology.
He said that of late the area has been receiving low, erratic and poorly distributed rainfall and climate change is set to make matters worse. This has increased water scarcity in the area and many people are now walking long distances to fetch water for domestic use.
“The increase in water stress in the Country has been exacerbated by lack of knowledge and skills in rainwater harvesting and storage. The water storages that I have put in place will be particularly important to cope with climate change and more variable rainfall,” said Kirago.
Kirago admiring his underground tank
He believes that water management for domestic use and agricultural purposes can be improved using various interventions.
“Water harvesting has really helped me. It has reduced going to look for water. Now I am using that time to do other things,” said Kirago.
He has been capturing both ground water runoff and rooftop rainwater. In order to harvest water using roof catchment he had to invest heavily in corrugated iron sheets roofed surface on which the rain falls, a concrete tank, gutters, pipes and a filter for removing dirt.
“In order to ensure that I get clean water I have ensured that the drain pipe has mesh filter at mouth and first flush device followed by filtration system before connecting to storage tank. The tank also has excess water over flow system which diverts the excess water to the underground tank,” said Kirago.
He is using water from his tank for domestic use while an underground tank and a water pan are used for irrigating his crops and feeding livestock’s.
Most farmers in Laikipia County rely on seasonal rainfall for their subsistence agriculture but with the increasing impacts of climate change their livelihood system is becoming unsustainable. Farmers like Kirago are now able to adopt against such challenges through improved utilization of available rainwater to reduce water stress.
Francis Kirago Njoroge can be contacted through +254725733329.
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