Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) is one of the partners for the Billion Dollar Business Alliance for Rainwater Harvesting – Kenya Chapter that inked a Memorandum of Understanding on 11 April 2017 in Nairobi, under the leadership of the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Mr Eugune Wamalwa and Dr. Alice Kaudia, the Environment Secretary from the Ministry of Agriculture. The Alliance has a total of 16 partners including civil society and the private sector. The aim of the project is to contribute to improved livelihoods and resilience of smallholder farmers in the dry lands of Kenya.
Between January and April 2017, Kenya has experienced a severe drought that affected 23 out of the 47 counties, 3 million Kenyans and was declared a national emergency by the government. For more than ten years now, January has been known to be a dry month. However, over the last few years, the onset of the long rains has shifted from mid-February to April in 2017, and even now some parts of the productive areas of the country have still not experienced any rains.
In a recent report, The Famine Early Warning Systems Network highlights the severity of the current drought, ‘People have to travel further to access water, for example in Baringo, people walk three times longer than usual. Pastoralist communities in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) counties are losing their livestock – with reports of large numbers of animal deaths in Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu and Mandera counties. Data collected by UNICEF from 10 affected counties indicates that close to 175,000 children are not attending early pre-primary and primary schools, primarily due to the drought’s impact. The drought has also had a major impact on water resources, where 30 per cent of rural water points are nonfunctional resulting in a five-fold increase in water prices leaving some 2.6 million people in urgent need of safe water. Households are largely dependent on boreholes in drought-affected areas, with most other water sources having run dry.’
The recurrent January drought can no longer be considered an emergency. The same way countries in the West know that they will experience winter at some point each year, is the same way Kenya by now should be knowing that the country will experience drought for four months at the beginning of each coming year and plan for it. There is no excuse for not having some food reserves for January – April 2018.
The Billion Dollar Business Alliance for Rainwater Harvesting approach makes it possible for each of us to do something towards food and water security so that come January next year, we will be in a better position to cope with the situation. The project is urging Kenyan farmers to construct farm ponds and harvest water during the rainy season so that there will be some reserves to use during the dry season. While people in the dry lands need help with establishing the farm ponds, there are many other farmers who can use available resources to set up the farms ponds.
The farm ponds use simple technology and relatively inexpensive technology. Farmers dig up shallow dams that are covered with polythene liners to prevent seepage of water over time. The ponds need to be fenced off for security purposes and the water can be used during the dry season to irrigate crops. The efficiency of the system can be enhanced by use of simple irrigation technologies like treadle pumps or solar water pumps. In urban areas, people can invest in water tanks and harvest water from their rooftops. It is a high time government passed a regulation demanding compulsory rainwater harvesting from every building. The water collected will be useful for watering gardens, out door cleaning and flushing toilets. In a country that is considered water scarce, there is so much we can do with harvested rain water.
The call by the Cabinet Secretary for Water and Irrigation, Mr Eugene Wamalwa brings out the urgency of the matter, “My ministry will bring on board individuals, families, communities, institutions, counties and the whole nation to store enough rainwater in the future.”
The ponds are a solution to the twin challenges of floods and drought. If all Kenyans tapped rainwater, there will be less flooding and more water to use when is becomes dry.
It is hoped that the Rainwater Harvesting Alliance will bring about a change towards food and water security in the country as the goal is to reach one million small holder farmers over the next five years. With increased access to water, farmers can have better yields, more cropping seasons and reduce dependency on rain-fed agriculture. All these benefits will ultimately improve the livelihoods of small holder farmers.
By Esther Kahinga