Food security is among President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda. Others are affordable universal health care, affordable housing and enhanced manufacturing.
Our food security situation remains unstable. The reason is simple; while agricultural production has been going down, population growth continues to run in the opposite direction. The result is food shortages. This situation is made worse by erratic weather patterns that scientists blame on global warming, a phenomenon that affects how and when regions receive rains.
Kenya’s agricultural production is largely rain-driven, which means that lesser yields are expected whenever rains fail, come at the wrong time or when heavy rains cause flooding. The answer to this inconsistency is irrigation driven agriculture, but large irrigation projects come at a higher cost and are, in most cases, localised. Galana Kulalu, for instance, is localised at the Coast and is unlikely to benefit the small-scale farmer in Western Kenya.
This realisation gave the government reason to pursue a less costly alternative which, to boot, benefits individual farmers. That viable alternative is water pans. In 2018, the government set out to construct at least 120,000 water pans across the country at an average cost of Sh100, 000 each. Indeed, farmers in Laikipia, Murang’a and Nyeri, among other areas, bear witness that water pans have become a game-changer. They are able to harvest rain water which they then use all year round to irrigate their crops for good yields.
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Having drawn lessons from how bureaucracy ended up diverting funds meant for noble projects like the Kimwarer and Arror dams, the government should consider investing more in the less costly but highly effective water pans to boost agricultural production.