There is no doubt that the Irrigation Acceleration Platform (IAP) in Laikipia County is making great strides in water management for the small-holder agriculture sector. The Platform was established in May of this year by the Smart Water for Agriculture Program of SNV (Netherlands Development Organisation). This Project aims to increase income and food security for households around the County.
The Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP) is supported by an LWF secretariat. We joined SNV to organise a communications workshop tailored for IAP county host leaders and farmer group representatives from five counties.
We implemented a 3-day workshop that focused on how best IAP leaders in the counties, and farmer group representatives, can communicate with farmers, financiers and suppliers. Powerful stories from farmers emerged from the workshop. Here’s one of them:
Ephraim Kagi Kahenya (EKK) is an active member and Secretary for the Naro Moru Water Resource Users Association (NWRUA). For over a decade now, Ephraim has been remarkably consistent in spreading the word about the importance of our catchment areas and encouraging communities to participate in various water conservation activities. His contagious enthusiasm shone through as we talked more about his work.
LWF: Why did you become a member of the Naro Moru WRUA?
EKK: I joined NM-WRUA in 2002 so that I could work with communities in the area. This is after leaving my job in Nairobi. I was extremely concerned that there were so many people without jobs. Also, I was worried a great deal about the state of the river; it just was not flowing due to mismanagement. Many members of my community had started to engage in get-rich-quick schemes that led to obstruction of the river and caused conflicts. I felt I had to do something about it.
LWF: Have you always lived in Naro Moru?
EKK: Yes, but I left to go look for work in Nairobi so that I can support my young family. I was a part of the hospitality sector for over 5 years before I decided to come back home and engage with community members on issues surrounding water conservation. The problems had become personal to me. I wanted to change things.
LWF: In what areas did you want to see the greatest change?
EKK: Water Storage is the most important thing! I have seen how people suffer during dry periods like this one we are going through now. People forget that sometimes water in the rivers dwindle so much that there is barely enough for our houses let alone for other activities like farming. People should move away from the notion that river water is the only source of water all year round.
LWF: Do you practice what you preach?
EKK: Of course! Over 10 years ago I put up simple greenhouses that had 2 functions. One was to protect my crops from the elements and the other was to construct greenhouses that can collect water when it rains. I also constructed a small dam (he says laughing). When I first started many years ago, my neighbours thought I had won some sort of lottery, but these structures were very inexpensive. I am open with my neighbours about how much they cost, so that they too can build similar structures
LWF: Have you seen a change in the way your neighbours are farming as a result?
EKK: Absolutely! You see, I use very little water because of the drip irrigation system that I installed. I am currently growing tomatoes, chillies, snow peas, onions and garlic. This supports my entire family, and I even have something left after meeting all my costs. The dam as well as the water structures that I have put up store enough water to support both my farming and household needs. Can you imagine that we now have 10 demo-sites based on my model thanks to the Water Services Trust Fund! The sites provide farmers with a platform to learn more about smart water irrigation and other practices that they can implement. The Trust Fund also gave us finances to put up water harvesting structures for all public institutions along the river. This means the school children get water even when taps around town have run dry, which is very important.
LWF: So your challenges are few and far between?
EKK: Oh, I wish that was so! We are definitely witnessing change in how people farm, but we are human. There are conflicts that erupt between those farming upstream and those downstream because of abstractions especially during dry periods. But this does not need to happen if people would just invest a little in water harvesting structures. Farmers need to be more cautious and informed about how they farm, and I sing this song for anyone who will listen, even to the children and youth in my town. Farmers also need to get information about how much water they need, and implement smart water solutions…. Even go as far as to test their soil. The County Government provides these services through mobile labs; it is just a matter of paying them a visit!
LWF: So the County Government provides much needed solutions as well?
EKK: Oh yes! The only thing that I would like to encourage is that the government simplify the results from the various tests they carry out for the farmers. They must make more effort in translating the information resulting from the tests, so that the right decisions are made.
LWF: How will this communications workshop help you?
EKK: I can now plan ahead and tell people more about the activities that the NMWRUA carries out. I want more people to know our stories so that other WRUAs in Laikipia and beyond can implement smart water solutions when farming. We need to stop working as if we are not part of a larger landscape! Once we do that I am sure we will see less conflicts and more water in our rivers. The workshop has also built my confidence, so that I can approach different stakeholders in order to come up with a better way of doing things
LWF: What else do you want people to know?
EKK: Join your WRUA and install water harvesting structures! As long as you are part of a catchment community you should join your local WRUA. This is very important for change. It is a place where solutions to our water problems can be designed and implemented with the help of our partners such as SNV and LWF. Your participation will teach future generations on the importance of community participation and engagement.
SNV’s Smart Water for Agriculture Program aims to contribute to better water management for small-holder agriculture and increased income and food security. The target is to increase water productivity by 20% for 20,000 SME farmers in 5 counties in Kenya (Laikipia, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Machakos, and Meru) toward secured water access for production and resilience to climate change. This means assistance to 4000 small and medium scale farmers in Laikipia. LWF, through MKEWP, is supporting this very important platform and is the secretariat of the Partnership.