New watering system reaches the poorest farmers in arid and conflict-prone part of Kenya

Published 7 December 2017 in:

A private enterprise and a humanitarian organisation have teamed up to bring a solar-powered irrigation system to small farming cooperatives in one of the poorest parts of Kenya.

Mandera, in north-eastern Kenya on the border with Somalia, is one of the poorest parts of the country. Almost 9 out of 10 people live below the poverty line in the arid and conflict-prone district. It is here that a project co-financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) is helping to bring a solar-powered irrigation system to small farming cooperatives.

The Agrosolar Irrigation Kit, developed by Nairobi-based private enterprise SunCulture, is being rolled out with the help of Islamic Relief Kenya. It consists of a solar-powered electric pump which is used to draw water from any source (such as wells or lakes) to storage tanks. The water is then used for drip irrigation during the evenings and early mornings. The innovation cuts fossil fuel use, saves water and boosts productivity.

Samir Ibrahim of SunCulture says: “We are seeing farmers lives improve in ways we have never seen before. In some cases, farmers are going from making USD 600 per acre per year to over USD 20 000.”

But keeping prices low and finding reasonable financing options has been a challenge. This is where Islamic Relief Kenya comes in. They help with distribution and provide advice and training so that cooperatives of poor small-scale farmers can buy and utilise the irrigation system collectively.

Stephen Omware of Islamic Relief Kenya says: “Our work has been a journey. We started working with farmers as pure pastoralists and introduced them to agriculture as an alternative source of livelihood. Now we are at a stage of introducing an innovation that we anticipate will commercialise agriculture in Mandera, improve the productivity of the farmers and increase their farm incomes.”

This case relates to Global Goal 1: No poverty

Read more about the project.