Wednesday, August 13, 2014


By Maison Nteetu

The main challenge for most of the farmers in Kenya, especially in lowlands, is lack of enough water for irrigation. During dry seasons farmers get low yields mostly because they lack water which is a basic necessity for plants.  In most cases, some even cannot try farming in such seasons.
Does irrigation takes place in some areas without rain? How do they get water for irrigation? There are some places which are much blessed with natural resources. Water flows on rivers throughout seasons and residents take the opportunity.

Nguruman is among the most blessed parts in the country. It is located in Kajiado County approximately 45 Kilometers from Magadi town where Salt is mined.

Nguruman Escarpments acts as the source of water for Entasopia and Oloibortoto rivers which feed Nguruman place with water. This water has been widely used by the community members in different ways. It acts as the source of water for livestock, domestic use and mostly for irrigation.

Irrigation was initially done through canals. Canals were built from the river to the farms by the farm owners. Those who have neighbouring   farms unite and make canals from the main river to their farms. Each farmer who contributed to the construction of the canal, was allocated a specific day to water his/her plants.
However, in the year 2012, the irrigation system was designed to take another outlook. The Irrigation Water Users Association (IWUA) initiated a sprinkler irrigation project with support from the Africa Development Bank (ADB).

The water that runs through canals initially has to be pumped through pipes to farms so as to ensure maximum utilization.  This will also ensure that a farmer will have water running from once farm everyday unlike the canals system where farmers are allocated a specific day.

A sprinkler set ready to use
The sprinkler system is more efficient and the residents have appreciated it. At first, the community members did not like the system since they claim that water might not be enough. They thought that their livestock will not access water and the small bushes that usually surrounds the canals, will dry up.

Nguruman acts as the ‘savior’ of most pastoralists during the dry seasons. It remains green for a long time, usually throughout the year except during the 2009 drought. This is where the pastoralists ran to with their livestock during such dry seasons. Most believe it is because of the permanent canals, that the place remains green for a long period. The pastoralists now are petrified when they see such a change that will ensure water runs through pipes and will probably lack in the canals.

Initially used water canal
To free the pastoralists from the fear, the IWUA organization put up water troughs and wells in some parts of the area to provide water for livestock and even for domestic use. On vegetation issues, some members suggested that they should allocate at least one day in a week that water should be allowed to run through the canals to ensure vegetation exists.
“Initially, I used to cultivate less than a quarter acre of land of which I was not sure whether I will gain anything due to water shortages.  I can now cultivate an acre and even more and I am very hopeful that I will gain much yields from it due to this sprinkler project”. This is what Mama Clara had to say to express her happiness with the project. Her farm is among the already farms that have received the sprinklers and are now functioning.
Mr. Moses, a farmer from Ndarkalai area also explained the advantage part of the sprinklers over the previous canal system. “Earlier, I almost gave up with farming when I had tomato seedlings worth Kshs.7000 which dried up due to lack of enough water. My farm is very far from the escarpments and only little water reach this place. On May fortunately, the sprinkler system reached my farm”. Said Mr. Moses on his half an acre farm of raw tomatoes.

The sprinkler system has also reduce use of much labour since the big work is just to move the portable sprinklers unlike the canal system where one directs water to every basin.

A farmer watering his plants through canal irrigation
Generally, the project has been embraced by many even though it had slight challenges like leakages and high maintenance of the sprinklers.  The leakages may be caused by failing to use the sprinklers which lead to a build up pressure that causes the pipes to burst.
The project however, is incomplete and upon completion, the president of Kenya is expected to launch it officially before the end of this year.

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