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East African farmers harnesses motorbike power for irrigation

motorbike to irrigate farms
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A simple pump op­er­ated by a mo­tor­bike is the latest in­nov­a­tion for farm­ers keen on ir­rig­a­tion due to its cost ef­fect­ive­ness with the pump using one litre of pet­rol to push 40,000 litres of water to a height of 50­metres.

This is a sharp con­trast with the ex­ist­ing fuel guzz­ling pumps that have been bey­ond the reach of ma­jor­ity of the small­hold­ers. In­vent­ors of the mo­tor­bike powered pump rode on the frenzy that the bikes are en­joy­ing in East Africa with over 1.5 mil­lion mo­tor­cycles usu­ally op­er­at­ing as taxis trans­port­ing pas­sen­gers and goods es­pe­cially in the rough ter­rains.

While re­search­ers and de­velopers have been mulling the idea of tak­ing the mo­tor­cycle use to whole new levels and es­pe­cially eco­nomic fronts one com­pany Farm­Link Africa took the leap of faith in de­vel­op­ing the pump.

Related News: Double digging irrigation multiplies vegetable yield

The pump is wel­come news to thou­sands of small­holder farm­ers who are buf­feted by vagar­ies of weather but cant still af­ford ir­rig­a­tion tech­no­lo­gies due to the cost factor. The pump costs Sh10,000 with an extra Sh5,000 for buy­ing the pipes.

The pump re­quires a litre of pet­rol to push 40,000 litres of water to a height of 50­metres. With a flow rate of 40- cubic metres and quick as­sem­bling, the pump can be in­stalled on the mo­tor­cycle at night to op­er­ate as a sprink­ler. It can also be used to pull water from a well into a tank for use in drip ir­rig­a­tion. 

The pump is be­com­ing a fa­vour­ite among house­holds due to its mul­tiple uses. While it is primar­ily meant for spray­ing crops and live­stock it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly use­ful in do­mestic use like in clean­ing car­pets. More eco­nom­ical use of fuel com­pared to con­ven­tional diesel pumps, low main­ten­ance costs and low la­bour re­quire­ment make it suit­able for small holder farm­ers.  

“Any­one who has tried any form of ir­rig­a­tion knows how im­port­ant this new pump is. There are in­stances where we farm­ers have been forced to pull water from wells or draw them from rivers, a very in­volving pro­cess.

The cost of diesel for the other ad­vanced pumps is bey­ond reach for most of us farm­ers. We are di­ver­si­fy­ing into hor­ti­cul­ture be­cause that is where the money is, but the water de­mand by these crops is so much. That is why such an in­nov­a­tion comes in handy,” said Agatha Wam­bito a small­holder hor­ti­cul­tural farmer in Kieni Nyeri.

Over 80 per­cent of ve­get­ables con­sumed in the coun­try are pro­duced by small­holder farm­ers, who have less than 1.5acres of land. Ir­rig­a­tion has been crit­ical in en­sur­ing con­tinu­ous sup­ply of ve­get­ables even in the dry sea­son.

A re­port by The In­ter­na­tional Water Man­age­ment In­sti­tute (IWMI), iden­ti­fied small scale ir­rig­a­tion is the key to a near trip­ling of sub-Saha­ran Africa’s yields. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Water for wealth and food se­cur­ity: Sup­port­ing farmer-driven in­vest­ments in ag­ri­cul­tural water man­age­ment, ex­pand­ing the use of on-farm water man­age­ment tech­niques could in­crease yields up to 300 per cent in some cases, and add hun­dreds of bil­lions of shil­lings to house­hold rev­en­ues across sub-Saha­ran Africa.

Related News: Irregular irrigation causes splitting in tomato farming

Related News: Drip irrigation allows farmers save 50% in water costs

“In­ex­pens­ive water pumps and new ways of power­ing them are chan­ging what it means to farm all over Africa and Asia. Even by using simple tools for drilling wells and cap­tur­ing rain­wa­ter, many small­hold­ers can now grow more crops in the dry sea­son, a tre­mend­ous help in meet­ing their bot­tom lines. There­fore, there is a need for stra­tegic pub­lic in­vest­ment in these proven prof­it­able ini­ti­at­ives by small­holder farm­ers to ex­ped­ite their es­cape from poverty traps,” read the re­port.

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