By: Paul Ndiho
Kenyan farmers are embracing friendly irrigation systems that keep their plants watered at all times throughout the year.
Irrigation can be a problem for small-scale farmers in Africa. In Kenya, many are harnessing that power to help them irrigate their fields – drip irrigation can mean the difference between living on the breadline or being able to grow an agricultural business. Peter Mathenge has installed solar panels in his field to power a drip feed irrigation system on the outskirts of Nairobi.
“For me, solar irrigation kit is critical. Without it we spend 300 dollars every month, actually more than 300 dollars every month, to buy diesel and with AgroSolar Irrigation Kit we use the sun, for making good use of the sun.”
Samir Ibrahim and his business partner developed the system to address Kenya’s irrigation inadequacy. Their company SunCulture created the “AgroSolar Irrigation Kit” – a solar powered drip irrigation system.
” We were the first company in Africa to commercialize solar powered irrigation. We have just released Africa’s most affordable irrigation kit, and we’re the only estimate in the world providing a turnkey solar power irrigation equipment for farmers.”
Samir Ibrahim was one of the African innovators competing at the recently concluded AG Innovation Investment Summit organized by USAID. The event attracted more than 50 agricultural technology innovators and investors, to present, and invest in game-changing technologies that will help small farmers improve their productivity and competitiveness.
” It pumps water to an elevated tank using the power of the sun and then uses gravity to release water through irrigation, delivering water efficiently to crops and we sell directly to farmers in Kenya and East Africa.”
Ibrahim wants more farmers to have access to this technology and says it will change the future of farming.
” If a farmer in Kenya wants one of our products, the producer calls us, we send a technician to our farm, the technician does a survey on our farm, we give her a quote, and as soon as she pays, we deliver the product directly to our farm the next day.”
Many Kenyan farmers irrigate their farms by flooding the land from nearby rivers, dams, wells or boreholes, which can erode and deplete the soil of its much-needed nutrients. Mathenge is quick to note the benefits of embracing new technology.
“With Agro Solar Irrigation Kit we use the sun, for making good use of the sun. Besides we no longer need to employ three staff to do the watering all the time; you reduce that to one, which brings to about 30 percent reduction in the cost of labor.”
Analysts say African farmland produces up to 50 percent less than the world average for agriculture. But Ibrahim says the AgroSolar Irrigation Kit allows farmers to power an efficient irrigation system that can increase their yields three-fold, while also cutting back water use by up to 80 percent.
The SunCulture kits range from 400 USD to 2,500 USD, although Ibrahim claims the farmer will recoup those costs over several harvests by saving on labor, maintenance and fuel costs.