Since Peter Njeru, a farmer in Rongai, Kajiado County embraced sun-culture technology five years ago; there has been no looking back. The return he is receiving from his high valued crops is good. Sun-culture technology uses solar energy to irrigate farms using drip irrigation.
Majority of smallholder farmers in Kenya are relying on rain-fed agriculture to grow their crops but with sun-culture irrigation, which is cheap and efficient farmers are boosting food security through an all year food production in their farms. Unlike other farmers who depend on rains, Njeru can farm without rain hence earning more income during the dry season. “The big advantage is that I grow crops at any period by timing the market demands, this means I can dictate the market prices”
Drip irrigation system using solar sun-culture technology
With the technology, Peter notes that a serious farmer can earn 1.5 million shillings from an acre of tomatoes on a good harvest season while onions can earn roughly a million shillings, capsicum (pilipili hoho) on the other hand can earn 200,000 to 300,000 shillings. This means that farmers need to evaluate the crop that gives best returns before planting it.
Peter started using the technology in 2012 after acquiring an acre of land for 420,000 shillings. The challenge he faced at that time was lack of water, so he had to dig a well 50 feet deep. He then constructed a greenhouse worth 250,000 where he used to pump water daily using a Honda water pump which used petrol. The pump was a constraint as it consumed more than 5 liters of petrol per day hence high input costs.
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In the process of his daily farming work, Peter came across sun-culture officers who motivated him to incorporate the technology in his farm. He has now expanded the area under drip irrigation to two and half acres under open drip irrigation. Labor costs are also reduced due to the simplicity of the drip irrigation system. The system also reduces fertilizer waste by adding fertilizer directly to your water tank to apply to the crops consistently.
He says that a 5,000 liter tank on his farm irrigates an acre comfortably as he only needs to switch on the drip for 5 to 10 minutes in a day. This saves a lot of water which would have otherwise gone to waste.
Martin Kinyua, a farm worker at Peter’s farm says the technology has greatly improved the production of tomatoes in the farm as they yields have doubled. “Initially we used to get about 2 tons per season but now we are harvesting 3 to 4 tons”
The biggest challenge Njeru is facing is finding the right manpower for the farm as he hopes to increase the land under irrigation.
With sun-culture, farmers can save Sh 20,000 or more monthly on fuel costs by using the included solar pump instead of a petrol or electric water pump producing high-quality vegetables that meet the standards of restaurants, greengrocers, and produce exporters.