Kenya launches national program to harvest rainwater

By Lynnea Imbai and Susan Onyango

Participants at the launch of the national program on rainwater harvesting in Kenya. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Participants at the launch of the national program on rainwater harvesting in Kenya. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Kenya is considered a water scarce country. Its per capita water availability is less than 600 cubic meters, which is below the global threshold of 1000 cubic meters per capita. Water scarcity is a critical constraint to the country’s socio-economic development and its achievement of Kenya’s Vision 2030 as well as the global development agenda detailed in the Sustainable Development Goals. The situation is exacerbated by climate change and increasing water demand due to population growth and urbanisation.

On 11 April 2017, the Government and partners from the development and business communities launched the Kenya chapter of the Billion Dollar Alliance for Rainwater Harvesting, a continent-wide, multi-actor alliance designed to scale up farm pond technology for agribusiness and livelihood resilience for dryland farming systems. The partnership is led by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), which hosted the launch event, and the World Food Programme, and includes the cooperation of the national government and private sector partners.

The Alliance aims to construct one million farm ponds in Kenya to increase water storage within farms. This is projected to be done so at a rate of 100,000 ponds per year for ten years. However, because of unforeseen circumstances the rate may be slower hence it may take 15 years, churning out about 70,000 ponds per year. The goal is to increase farmers’ income and to improve food security through coordinated irrigation. The partnership will provide technical, financial, policy and research support. The World Agroforestry Centre has already constructed sixty farm ponds which has improved the communities’ livelihoods.

Dr. Ravi Prabhu, Deputy Director General, ICRAF. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Dr. Ravi Prabhu, Deputy Director General, ICRAF. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

“We at ICRAF know that trees are the greatest water pumps. That is why we are pleased to be the host of what could be a momentous partnership amongst government, NGOs, private sector and research institutions such as ICRAF,” said Dr Ravi Prabhu, ICRAF’s Deputy Director General as he welcomed the guests. “This Alliance envisages a responsive financing system that addresses the needs of smallholder farmers and increases their access to water for horticultural production. It will also lead to enhanced policy support for rainwater governance harvesting, improved sustainable drylands farming systems and ecosystem services. Farmers will benefit from improved incomes and livelihoods, and strengthen their resilience to climate change.”

 

Hon. Eugene Wamalwa,E.G.H, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Water and Irrigation. Photo/World Agroforestry Centre

Hon. Eugene Wamalwa,E.G.H, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Water and Irrigation. Photo/World Agroforestry Centre

“The Rainwater Harvesting and Management Campaign can be sustained,” said Hon. Eugene Wamalwa EGH, Cabinet Secretary for Water and Irrigation. “My ministry has to bring on board individuals, families, communities, institutions, counties and the whole nation to store enough rain water to ensure food security in future.”

The Kenyan national government has created an enabling environment comprised of policies and legislation designed to increase rainwater storage. These include the newly enacted Water Act 2016, which will establish new water institutions namely, the Water Resources Authority, Basin Water Resources Committee, Water Services Regulatory Board, Water Works Development Agencies, Water Sector Trust Fund and, importantly, the  National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority and Water Tribunal, which will further streamline the government’s Water Sector and increase  access to clean water for all in adequate quantity and quality at an affordable price as envisaged in Vision 2030 and  the Constitution of Kenya.

In spite of these advances, slow implementation and low technology adoption is hampering the realization of rural development. Challenges include poorly coordinated technology approaches by various development partners, unsustainable grant-based community service approaches adopted by development partners, inadequate adoption of agribusiness approaches for technology promotion, and inadequate financing mechanisms to reduce risks and encourage farmers to take credit for upgrading rain fed farming systems.

“Studies by ICRAF and the UN Environmental Programme show that Kenya’s rainwater potential is more than 350 billion cubic meters. If captured and managed, this water is enough to support a population of 233 million people or close to five times the current population of Kenya,” said Maimbo Malesu, ICRAF’S Program Coordinator Water Management.

Two men dig a pit for rainwater harvesting in Machakos County, Kenya. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Two men dig a pit for rainwater harvesting in Machakos County, Kenya. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

“The Kenya Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) can produce enough food and even surplus food if runoff water is properly harvested because soils in the arid lands are fertile,” James Kamunge, Program Policy Officer for the World Food Programme. “WFP has seen productivity growth in crops and livestock in ASALs where it supports over 700,000 people to build resilience to droughts through improvements to the land and water harvesting. Communities are more food secure and have better nutrition than those that are not being supported to use runoff water – and to use it properly, to avoid soil erosion that depletes fertility,” he added.

In addition to ICRAF and WFP, the Alliance consists of Equity Bank, G. North and Sons, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural and Technology, KCB Bank, Kenya Climate Innovation, Kenya Rainwater Association, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, National Drought Management Authority, Rafiki Bank, SearNet, University of Nairobi, Vision Fund Kenya and World Vision.

Read more about the Billion Dollar Business Alliance for Rainwater Harvesting here.

See more on the event:

 

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Susan Onyango

Susan Onyango

Susan Onyango is the communications specialist for climate change for the World Agroforestry Centre and is based at the headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. With over 12 year’s experience in communication, she promotes the World Agroforestry Centre’s work on climate change, writes blogs and provides communication advice and support to scientists. Susan holds a MA communication studies and a BA in English.

Twitter: @susanonyango

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