Farmers watering their vegetables. Irrigation has become the best alternative for farmers in Kenya during dry seasons as rainfall has become erratic. Photo courtesy.
About 400 farmers in Laikipia are relying on gravitational force to tap water from Aberdare Mountain Ranges to use in growing different crops such as fruits, vegetables and potatoes. This has enabled them to stop depending on rainfall which has become erratic in the country.
The farmers who are brought together under Gobet Water Self Help group about four years ago realised that the water source would be of benefit to their crops especially during dry seasons and increase their income prospects.
“I remember in 2015 when the group was started to help members find solutions to some challenges which were facing us, shortage of water for irrigation is the major one. Sometimes our crops could fail to germinate properly or withered due to increased temperatures and drier soil conditions,” said Peter Wambugu, the group member.
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The farmers started by identifying certain springs within the mountain and once that was complete, they would dig terraces which would lead the water from different springs into one big water reservoir within the mountain.
From the reservoir, each farmer connects their water pipes of different lengths depending on the distance between the farms and the reservoir. Since the farms are at the base of the mountain, the pipes which have got taps at the end, when opened, let water by gravity to the fields for watering crops.
“This system has made our life easier as we spend only Sh200 service fee per month which is used to pay those who clean the reservoir and the whole system to avoid any cases of blockages,” said Wambugu who is also an apple farmer.
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In case there is severe drought and the water may not be enough, the farmers are encouraged to look for leavers and grass among other cover materials to mulch the crops to reduce the water loss from the soil and also reduce the amount of water required for irrigation.
“During very dry seasons, we encourage every member to get into a community forest in the area to look for grass and other tree lives to cover the soil and prevent it from excessive water loss,” said Wambugu.
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For the whole season, a farmer can spend between Sh5,000 to Sh10,000 on labour and transporting the mulching materials. This cost depends on the distance between a farm and the forest and also the type of mulching material.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 2010, Aberdare Mountains are one of Kenya’s major water catchment areas, surrounded for the most part by intensive, small-scale agriculture.