Irrigation project saves farming in Kenya

(InformAfrica) — Many families have struggled to get a livelihood in the rural areas in Kenya for domestic and irrigation use due to erratic rains. For years many families have struggled to get clean water from the rivers that are kilometers away from their homes to no success but in the year 2000 through Constituency Development funds, water projects were established ending the agony of many rural dwellers.

Majority of residents in Ndia Constituency, Kirinyaga County the vision is slowly becoming a reality as they proudly turn on taps with clean water.

“It never crossed my mind that one day I would have piped water and irrigate my land after relying on rain water for years,” says Purity Wanjiku Njoka, a small scale farmer in Kiandai village.

She recalls how her entire village used to trek for hours to get water in a nearby river that was 10 kilometers away.

Ms. Njoka said that consuming water was hardly enough for domestic use as well as to give animals especially during the dry months of March and September.

Five years ago the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) committee got proposal from the residents who had previously met demanding water from their area MP to cut the distances.

Although some were sceptical and dismissed the project as the usual promise by politicians, the village gossip has passed and provision of water becomes a reality.

On April 29 2005 the area Mp Robinson Njeru Githae officially commissioned water Kibaratani water project where a found stone for the intake across River Rwamuthambi was laid.

The over 5,000 residents have joined others in the world who can proudly proclaim achieving one of the Millennium Development Goals.

On average Njoka earns sh80,000 in three months from irrigating her land which enables her grow high value horticulture crops like French beans, tomatoes and tissue culture bananas.

We find her neighbour cleaning freshly picked French beans with five employees who earn an average of sh300 per day for the work.

“We now earn a living from picking the pods from several farmers unlike previous years when we travelled far to get casual employment,” says Wanjiru as she identified herself.

It is estimated that small scale farmers earn up to sh5 million per month from the sale of French beans in the constituency which has a multiplication effect in the local economy.

Other horticulture crops include cabbages, kales and tomatoes which are sold to middle men who take them as far as Nairobi for market.

In Mukui sub location we find Maina Mbario a retired provincial administrator whose farm stands out from the rest as a carpet of deep green crop covers the ground.

He is a well known sweet potato vines farmer whose effort in agriculture has been noticed by government officials who use his farm to train locals on proper agri-business.

“ I have divided my piece of land into 12 parts which I rotate various crops but most of it is under sweet potatoes vines,” he proudly explains.

Mbario earns up to sh20, 000 from the sale of the sweet potatoes of 22 bags where a bag costs 2,500/-which are transported to Mombasa every three months.

He also has several dairy cows which give him 40 litres a day and using irrigation water he has been able to grow nappier grass to feed the zero grazed cows at home.

The sight of sprinklers faithfully watering the green crops across villages in the agriculture rich constituency is a constant reminder that everything is possible where there is a will.

Ndia CDF treasurer Benson Maina Kabau explains that about sh15 million has been spent on water projects in the past year alone and the investment is bearing fruits.

“Majority of farmers used to do rain fed agriculture where they waited for March and October rains to plant,” he says adding that the trend has now changed.

With irrigation water farmers are now planting up to three seasons and are able to plan and ensure when they harvest the produce fetches the best prices in the market due to the availability of water which is giving the yield enough water for growth.

Kabau says that in villages where they have access to water grass thatched houses are no more an indication of improved economic status of the residents.

“We have reduced incidences of water borne diseases and prevalent of preventable diseases over the years due to piped water,” says a public health officer Daniel Njega.

With 56 water projects Ndia Constituency is among the few in the country that has seriously embarked on one of the key investment that drives growth of the rural economy.

Water is distributed by gravity therefore reducing operating costs and the availability of many permanent streams due to proximity to Mt. Kenya forest has made things better.

Area Mp who is also the minster Nairobi Metropolitan Development has no regrets investing in water projects whose dividends are paying at a time when many places are grappling with food shortages.

He says that one third of the CDF funds have been allocated to water projects in the constituency to ensure residents have access to the commodity as per the five year development plan they made in 2005.

With the recent opening of Kagio-Kibirigwi-Kagio roads, has made it possible for farmers to get their produce in the market on time.

The busy Kibingoti market known for its banana sale makes it a ready market for the culture bananas that are grown in the area, tomatoes also are sold while others are transported in Nairobi where there is a ready market for the produce.

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Jane Mugambi, AfricaNews reporter in Nairobi, Kenya

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