Water harvesting interventions helping farmers reap big

Posted: July 16, 2020
Comments: 0

Embracing green solutions is one sure way to confront the climate change, prevent further climate shocks and look forward to better days developmentally.  For over 5 years, MESPT has been supporting small holder farmers to green agriculture value chains by promoting adoption of environmentally friendly technologies and practices. The Trust has also been partnering with counties and various private sector players in provision of green solutions, knowledge and skills transfer, market access and financial services.

The intervention has increased access and uptake of green technologies which are climate smart solutions. The adoption of green solutions such as water pans and water weirs are changing the mind set of small holder farmers from depending on rain-fed agriculture to all year agriculture. Farmers have taken up irrigation and farming is serious agribusiness ventures that generates them income for their families and has increased job opportunities for communities.

Photos: Neighboring farms of two farmers in Makueni. The first one depends on rain fed agriculture while the other one is a beneficiary of a water pan which he draws water to irrigate his farm. 

Take for instance the story of Kanoto Horticultural Co-operative Society located in Makueni County; one of the beneficiary group that MESPT has been working with. The cooperative was started in October 2010 as a common interest group producing French beans, Asian vegetables, tomatoes, and mangoes for export. The members of Kanoto cooperative were struggling with inconsistent production of French beans due to lack of water. As a result, they also struggled getting a reliable market with good prices, and the volumes of their productions was very low. They mostly relied on selling their produce at the local market through brokers, who would then sell to exporters in Nairobi for export to Europe or Asian markets. Most of their produce would go to waste due to drought, diseases and pests translating to almost 40% loss and reject levels of the beans was also huge.

Through MESPT intervention, farmers were sensitized, and capacity built on various good agronomic practices and introduced to water harvesting technologies that significantly contributed to reliable production and better yields. To begin with, MESPT rehabilitated 2 water weirs located in Kyanzuki and Mumbuni areas of Makueni County. The Mumbuni water weir provides water to 70 households who are members of the community and 8 households that are members of the Kanoto cooperative. The Kyanzuki weir on the other hand serves 40 non-member households and 18 Kanoto cooperative members. The communities are now able to adequately irrigate their farms all year round. Initially the weirs could only hold water for 2 months after the rains, then dry up.  This has since changed after the rehabilitation; the weirs are able to store water throughout the year.

The main value chain for the Kanoto farmers is farming of French beans for the export market. The group carries out farming of French beans on individual farms, but they also have a communal land that they have leased and farm together. Since some of the individual farms are off the direction of the water weirs, MESPT found it necessary to support construction and lining up of 29 individual water pans that belong to members of the cooperative.

As a result, farmers in the lower Eastern Region of Kenya, which is generally dry, sub-humid to largely semi-arid in ecological conditions, are a very happy lot, the dry seasons no longer affect their farming, they have decent jobs that are helping them improve their lives and those of their families. With increased volumes in their production especially the French beans, MESPT facilitated a market linkage and the cooperative is currently under contract farming with Vert Limited since 2018. Vert Limited has provided them with a reliable market and income.

Other areas of MESPT support include construction of an aggregation centre which sits on land owned by the group -the structure is a global GAP certified structure which is used as a grading shade. The farmers are also global GAP and Fairtrade certified for production of quality French beans. In addition, Vert Ltd has assigned a Technical Assistant to the group to ensure compliance with market standards and requirements. The Fairtrade certification has enabled the group to enjoy premiums which they use to support market standards renewal among other developments.

Kanoto cooperative group has grown from 30 to 95 members producing export vegetables with an average annual production of 43.2 MT valued at Ksh. 2,589,180. The group members were linked to Universal Traders Sacco, where every member has an account that they are paid through.