Too much rain is harmful, but we have found ways of mitigating losses

  Barasa builds dykes around a fishpond to help direct away flood water. FILE/STANDARD]

Majority farmers spend most time and resources preparing their farms for the planting season. But few, if any, prepare for too much rain. After all, rain is a farmers' best blessing.

Last year, Joyce Makaka lost more than 350 of her female fish to floods. This was after heavy rains hit Kakamega County where she has established a fish empire, Jafi enterprises. Makaka has nine fish ponds, including hatcheries.

"It was on December 23 when my 356 female fish were swept away by flood waters after a heavy downpour. The fish were about to lay thousands of eggs," she tells the Smart Harvest.

Makaka says the incident opened her eyes. She has invented ways of making heavy rains work in her favour.

Tunnels run besides her expensive one acre farm where nine fishponds sit in a picturesque landscape. The tunnels drain away unwanted rain water from areas surrounding the fish ponds to a stream flowing nearby.

Makaka has also lined her fish ponds with sacks filled with sand to strengthen the walls and raise them above ground surface. This ensures excess rain water do not tear the fishponds apart.

She has also set up four emergency tanks that act as temporary ponds in case rain water sweep away the sand-bag-lined walls.

"The emergency tanks can keep up to 2,000 fish for up to one or two weeks as I repair any pond destroyed by floods, earthquakes or any other weather related misfortune. Usually, there are a few fish that remain after a tragedy hits a pond. These are the few that I temporarily transfer into the tank," she says.

The tanks get fresh water at regular intervals to allow adequate oxygen necessary for the survival of fish.

Makaka has also installed septic tanks in her compound to store water.

"The challenge is that the rain harvested water usually carries with it a lot of waste products that often block the inlet and outlet pipes, besides being of health risk to the fish. You have to be keen in repairing the pipes in the process," she warns.

Charles Opanga, a senior project manager at Farm Africa says many fish farmers ignore casual but critical measures like planting grass on the foot of the pond to help control floods. farm Africa is an organisation that specialises in aquaculture.

"Grass and other cover crops planted besides dykes help mitigate runoff water from getting into the fish pond and carrying away fish. Farmers should ensure they close all water inlets to the pond when they sense heavy rains to floods in the ponds," says Opanga.

He attributes flooding in fish ponds to the popular practice of tapping water directly from streams or rivers into the ponds.

"You have little control on the force of flow of a natural water source should it burst its banks," he says.

To mitigate this, Opanga suggests creating independent sources of water to supply the fish pond.

Mrs Makaka rears bees too, insects that abhor too much water.

She has 10 Langstroth bee hives and three box bee hives.

"When setting up a hive you ensure the hives are suspended by strong steel wires and support them with wood," she says.

She prefers the Langstroth hives because they have an iron sheet on top to divert rain water away from the hives. These hives also have small opening that allow at most three bees to enter or leave the hive at a time. These small holes help keep away rain water.

Tens of kilometres away from Mrs Makaka's Eshisiru farm is a Jisimamie community based group who run a tree nursery at Emusala village in Butsotso East, Kakamega County.

The group of 25 fetch water for their tree seedlings from a stream 50 metres from their nursery.

But the journeys to the stream are significantly cut short during rainy seasons.

"We harvest the water from a roof top and store it in the tank. A full capacity tank serves us for close to a month," says Astarico Omusundi, a group member.

The rains, however, normally find them on a wrong footing. Even the shades they construct to protect their trees from the heavy rains are sometimes swept away.

To Jisimamie, rains are both a blessing and curse.

"When we sense rains are gathering in the skies and would likely cause damage to our seedlings, we sell them at throw away prices or give them away to schools and churches," says Cyrus Akhonya, an official of of the group.