Thirsty Business of Agriculture

Thirsty Business of Agriculture

After a prolonged period of drought, the rains are finally here. There is a sigh of relief across the country as farmers till their land expecting a bumper harvest while the citizens are waiting with baited breathe for the prices of agricultural commodities to lower, thus bringing down the cost of living. The dream of Kenya being the food basket of the region remains elusive as the prolonged drought destroys the little that’s left of our agricultural output.

Have we as a nation over-relied on rain -fed agriculture for too long? Is it time to change the narrative? Time and again we have witnessed in awe as desert countries like Israel not only being able to feed its population but having surplus for export.

Impact of climate change on rainfall patterns

Agriculture uses about 75% of available water. Most of this water comes from rain. The rainfall patterns have been unpredictable in the past decade because of the negative effects of climate change. Historically, the long rains were always expected between March and May while the short rains happened between October and December. This predictability ensured farmers planned for planting, ripening of the crops and harvesting seasons.

The past three years, Kenya has experienced a shortage of rain resulting in persistent famine in the country. The severe drought has led to water shortages for both domestic and commercial use, death of both livestock and human, and increased food prices making the cost of basic commodities unaffordable.

As we as a country experienced La Nina, scientists are warning of expected El Nino as the rains resume. The negative effects of El Nino have been experienced in the past with floods leading to the loss of human lives and livestock, displacements, mudslides, destruction of crops in the farms and recently the splitting of infrastructure along the Rift Valley line which is a strange and shocking phenomenon.

The President of the Republic of Kenya has called for concerted efforts by both private and public stakeholders to plant as many trees as possible to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. Stakeholders have devised ways and means of reducing carbon emissions in a bid to reverse the effects of climate change.

The agricultural sector has not been left behind either noting that for a long time, agriculture has been the backbone of our economy. The use of smart agricultural practices and reduction in wastage of water by recycling wastewater for agricultural purposes ensures there is reduced emissions of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.

Smart agricultural practices

Kenya Innovative Finance Facility for Water(KIFFWA)

The use of technology shifting from the traditional manner of agriculture will go a long way in resolving the food crisis that the country has been experiencing. Deploying these climate-friendly technologies will limit human interference in the agricultural value chain and ultimately increase yields.

Water harvesting is a crucial part of smart agricultural practices. This can be done through construction of dams or gullies to avoid water going to waste. Instead of draining wastewater, it is prudent to recycle that water for use on crops.

Use of organic fertilizers from farms e.g., waste from animals, could also help in subsidizing the cost of farm inputs instead of purchasing expensive inorganic fertilizers.

It is high time for Kenya to invest heavily in irrigation as a means of boosting agriculture production without being overly dependent on rain which has become unpredictable. This will ensure production of crops all year round. Countries like Israel have successfully used irrigation to produce crops and their agricultural practices are worth emulating.

Private sector financing of the water sector

Over the last five years, the Kenya Innovative Facility for Water (KIFFWA) has financed projects which are water based and climate resilient, and developed an understanding of how water directly impacts on food security.

We’ve partnered with private developers in various parts of the country to ensure that some of the water projects will, on completion, not only provide water to the locals but the same water will be beneficial for agricultural purposes feeding over 200,000 households. This will contribute to the achievement of SDG 2 of ending hunger, attaining food security, improved nutrition and promotion of sustainable agriculture.

KIFFWA is always on the lookout for such projects and partners with like-minded organizations to enable a more sustainable future for all.

For more information, kindly contact [email protected]

The writer Duncan Onyango, is the Executive Chair of the Kenya Innovative Finance Facility for Water (KIFFWA)


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