Smallholder farmers are warming up to a miniature portable drip kit that is offering them over 90 percent efficiency in water conservation for only Sh20,000 at a time when water has become scarce due to unprecedented vagaries of weather.
Invented by agro input company Elgon Kenya the kit, popularly known as Kadogo drip kit denoting its size, focuses on tens of thousands of farmers who are boxed by drastic climate changes, from drought to downpour, but cannot afford the highly priced kits like those used in greenhouses.
A standard 8 by 15 metres greenhouse which is now in common use goes for between Sh120,000 to Sh150,000.
But the kadogo drip kit which costs six times lesser than the greenhouse kits ensures that majority of farmers who do not have the large pieces of land manage to irrigate the little they have utilizing all the water they pump to the farm. The kit, which also assist in fertigation, is neatly packed with one box to facilitate easy transportation, assembly and installation. It is also fully gravity powered, eliminating the possibility of extra power cost incurred from pumping water from its source to the farm.
“It comes with high quality accessories fully equipped with 12mm dripline that is made of resistant materials for easy application of soluble fertilizers. These are fitted for special take off as they have lateral plugging abilities which come in handy when only partial irrigation is required,”said Nelson Maina head of Communications at Elgon Kenya.
The kit which was launched last year, is meant to irrigate small plots of up 500 metres squared and works with all crops including vegetables, cereals, pulses and fruit trees whether in the open field or inside greenhouses. The drip pipes are spaced 50cm from each other allowing for complete water absorption by the plant.
Farmers who have already adopted the kit especially in semi arid areas of Kieni and Laikipia now say it has come as a welcome relief as the vagaries of weather bite. “We cannot afford some of the kits in the market and even their capacity is higher than we need in our small farms. The thing with the kadogo kit is that it allows us to get water faster in our small farming plots.
The affordable pricing is another plus,”says Manuthu Kaburu a horticultural farmer who has never known the woes of climate change thanks to his continued use of different irrigation methods.
Farmers who purchase the kit also get free demonstration of its use and agronomical support by agronomists from Elgon Kenya.
“Although its biggest is that it doesnt come with a tank, it has especially helped me cut down on labour cost which was eating into my savings. Its thin pipes allow the water to drip specifically to individual plants reducing water run offs which hampers growth of the weed and eliminates wetting of the foliage minimizing fungal diseases associated with dampness on plants,”said Doroles Wamahiu another farmer who has bought four kits for her half acre piece of land.
The adoption of the kit comes in the wake of a report that identified small scale irrigation as key to a near tripling of sub-Saharan Africa's yields. The report by The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) released earlier this year, uncovered a revolution in the ways in which smallholders are driving low-cost farm and community water management.
The report dubbed Water for wealth and food security: Supporting farmer-driven investments in agricultural water management, also unearthed for the first time the scale to which enterprising smallholders are driving the irrigation revolution by using their own resources innovatively rather than waiting for water to be delivered.
One example is a scheme in the same Tanzanian district using a combination of water storage and terraces, where the maize yields on the terraces are twice as high as conventional yields. The farmers in this project are now realizing some Sh300 a day per quarter acre, compared to Sh130 using rainfed systems. The increase in productivity has led to improved livelihoods, with some of the farmers diversifying and investing in other sources of income such as small shops.