Harvesting Hope: The Solar-Powered Transformation of the Olkiloriti women group
August 31, 2023
In the heart of the arid lands of Kajiado County, Kenya, the pastoralist community of Ildamat has always struggled to make ends meet. The harsh climate and unreliable rains made traditional farming nearly impossible, and they were heavily dependent on their cattle and goats for survival. However, the winds of change blew through Ildamat, bringing with them an innovative solution that would transform the community’s destiny. The turning point for the Olkiloriti women group of Ildamat came when the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), in collaboration with GIZ through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) small grants program, introduced solar-powered drip irrigation technology to the community. It was a daring experiment, and the community at Ildamat were both excited and skeptical about the new venture. Under the scorching sun, a team of experts from Sunculture company set up the solar-powered drip irrigation system. They carefully installed solar panels, water pumps, and a network of hoses that snaked through the village’s dusty terrain. The system was designed to efficiently deliver water to crops, allowing for year-round farming, even in the driest months. As the solar panels absorbed the abundant sunlight, they converted it into energy to power the water pumps. These pumps drew water from a nearby borehole, and through a series of pipes and hoses, the water was transported to the carefully prepared onion fields. The farmers watched in awe as the once-barren land came to life with lush green rows of onions. The initial excitement soon turned into hard work as the Inkii o orpurkel (Queens of the dessert) took on the responsibility of tending to their newfound source of sustenance. Under the guidance of agricultural experts from ALIN and The County Government of Kajiado they learned the intricacies of onion farming – from planting to nurturing to pest control. With access to a consistent water supply, they could now plan and diversify their crops, reducing their dependency on cattle and opening up new economic opportunities. As the weeks passed, the fields of Ildamat flourished. The onions grew bigger and healthier than anyone had ever seen. The solar-powered drip irrigation system ensured that every plant received the right amount of water, maximizing yields and minimizing wastage. The community members marveled at the transformation happening before their eyes, and a sense of hope began to permeate the village. This first harvest was a moment of pure joy and celebration. The villagers, once nomadic pastoralists, are now proud farmers. With the support of ALIN through GIZ, they had not only transformed their barren land into a fertile oasis but also their lives. The onions they harvested were of exceptional quality, and the local markets eagerly took the produce where they fetched high prices. The success of Ildamat’s solar-powered drip irrigation project has not stopped at onions. The community has started planting watermelon for its second season. This is after they reinvested a percentage of their harvest money. Word of Ildamat’s transformation spread, and neighbouring pastoralist communities began to take notice. They too wanted to embrace this sustainable farming model. ALIN through GIZ, is inspired by the success in Ildamat, and looks forward to extending its support to other communities, helping them harness the power of solar energy and drip irrigation to break free from the cycle of drought and poverty. In the end, what started as an experiment in Ildamat Kajiado became a beacon of hope for countless pastoralist communities across Kenya’s arid lands. With solar-powered drip irrigation, they did not only harvested onions but also harvested a brighter, more prosperous future.