Bananas growing in a trench. A Kitui County farmer i suing trenches to store roadside-runoff water for use on dry spells. PHOTO BY INFONET BIOVISION.
As drought causes losses of livestock and crops in most parts of Kenya in the ongoing January prolonged spell, Muniu Ngwau’s bananas are still green as a result of the water she harvested from roads in 2016 during the rains.
It has not rained for more than three months in Kitui County. But the bananas look healthy and water-sufficient as if it rained the previous day.
Ngwau learnt of the trick, which has also raised her maize and beans production by five times, from Roads for Water organisation.
By digging shallow trenches from the nearby road, the water running alongside the highway is directed to her five-acre farm at Kisasi, Kitui County.
The water together with the silt accumulate at the base of the about six feet deep trenches, where ‘a heavy mattress’ of mulching awaits and helps to contain and retain this key component of production.
“Given that the base is less exposed to direct sunlight and strong wind, the soil remain moist for more than three months after the rains,” she said.
From one acre, where she used to harvest five 90kg bags of maize and one such 90kg bag of beans, the farmer got a boost of up to five times in 2016.
Ngwau harvested 20 bags of maize and five bags of beans. Shallow water pathways meander through the one acre in intervals. They convey the water to the crops from the storage bank when it is dry.
The water has also helped bolster short season crops like pigeon peas from three to seven bags.
Water usage reduces with time after the long rains because of the quick maturity of the crops. She grows quick maturing and drought tolerant maize varieties, which are ready for harvest by the end of the fourth month.
She also has mango trees.
Hundreds of livestock have died sick in the low rain fl regions in Kenya. Grazing vegetation and crop have diminished with the dry spell spanning for more than three months.
It is easy to collect surface run-off water for later usage especially from roadsides because for the large volumes.
By the next rain season, the mulch and the humus could have rotten into a cheap organic fertiliser that boosts soil nutrients and texture.
Roads for Water is an organisation supporting farmers with skills of harnessing rain water to sustain farming during dry months.