By Milcah Rajula & Noah Lusaka
On 26th February, Sauti Ya Mwananchi Radio, 100.9FM, held a morning radio talk show focused on impacts of climate change and food security in Baringo County. Specifically, the programme focused on community adaptation strategies being implemented such as climate smart agriculture (CSA).
Guests in the show from Baringo County included: Mrs. Alice Sauroki -Chairlady of Nolororo Women Group based at Eldume, Ilchamus Ward; Ms Jennifer Kipkazi -Director Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Energy and Mining; Mr. Titus Pario-traditional weather forecaster from Lake 94; Mr. Noah Lusaka, Projects Manager- Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN); and Mr. Kurunzi, host of the show.
Mr. Titus Pario, the Traditional weather forecaster, predicts that, “With the differentiation of weather patterns faced in Baringo County, the long rains which are usually expected in March will not be enough. They should instead be anticipated in August therefore farmers should be preparing their farms close to that time”.
Consequently, Nolororo Women Group which was formed in 2006 and has a total number of 15 members has partnered with ALIN and other partners namely: Act. Change. Transform! (Act!); Embassy of Sweden and Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources among others in implementing a climate smart agriculture project. The main aim is to strengthen the communities’ resilience to impacts of climate change while conserving natural resources and also serves as income generating venture.
Climate smart agriculture involves using technologies that can assist farmers in transitioning from traditional farming strategies to new climate-aware ones. These technologies focus on improved water management through water harvesting and use of drip irrigation, soil and water conservation measures, mulching, intercropping, introduction of drought tolerant crops and practicing agroforestry among others.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization, climate smart agriculture consists of three main pillars:
- sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes (food security);
- adapting and building resilience to climate change (adaptation); and
- reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), where possible.
The Nolororo Women Group was supported by ALIN to establish a solar powered drip irrigation system for horticultural production within 1.2 acre farm. “The implementation of the drip irrigation system has helped us a lot especially during the dry season when the rains were very unreliable. As a group we dug a farm water pond where we harvest water from River Molo for storage on our farm.”
With capacity for using drip irrigation system, the group planted tomatoes and onions during the first three-month season. In the second season, they planted tomatoes and beans. The project assisted the group to install a 5000-litre water tank elevated at three metres which supplies water to all the corners of the farm daily. Currently, the yield from their farm is three times annually which they sell within the community thus generating income.
“The success of the Nolororo group horticulture farm rests on the groups’ ability to harvest water 60 metres away from River Molo and channelling it by gravity to their farm pond for storage. The water is then pumped using a solar pump to the tank elevated at three metres high. The water is filtered before flowing to the piped network of drip irrigation system. The water is then dispensed onto the root zones of the plant drop by drop”, explained Mr. Lusaka.
The many benefits and Challenges
According to Mrs. Sauroki’s experience during the first season, the system worked effectively reducing workload on the farm. “In the past we used to take a whole day to irrigate one acre using a lot of water and fuel to pump water. With the drip irrigation system, only one person turns on the water for irrigation that takes less than one hour!” states Mrs. Sauroki.
The group experienced some challenges that included the solar pump breaking down regularly due to siltation. To prevent recurrence, a water liner was placed on the farm pond and since then, the water pump has worked effectively. The tomato crop was affected by pests and diseases and appropriate pest and disease management practices were used to overcome this.
“Water is a scarce commodity and the rains too. The system is good because it provides an alternative to rain for farming”, noted Jennifer.
“Farmers need to engage in other farming methods like bee keeping – the training of which is offered by Kerio Valley Development Authority, zero grazing for milk production and introduction of drought resistant crops”, advises Jennifer. “We are targeting to plant two million seedlings by 2017 and currently, we have distributed ninety five thousand seedlings to schools and women groups. The seedlings are for macadamia, avocadoes and mangoes”, she adds.
“The County can support drip irrigation as more funds have been devoted for enabling communities’ to access various water resources that include boreholes, dams and pans,” she concludes.
“I shall emphasize the need to encourage communities to harvest water. This helps prevent over reliance on the limited water resources which eventually keeps hunger away,” concluded Mr. Lusaka.