New boreholes give residents in arid region water for irrigation
For ages the people of Tigania and Buuri regions of Meru have suffered for lack of rain, and often relied on relief food from the government and aid agencies.
Farmers in the dry regions harvested little or nothing after rains failed, and finding food for their families was an arduous task.
But now many can heave a sigh of relief, after the Meru County Government sunk nearly 200 boreholes in the water-deficient regions.
Governor Kiraitu Murungi has concentrated the borehole drilling projects in the five subcounties of Tigania West, Tigania East, Buuri, Igembe Central and Igembe North, where perennial drought led to dependence on relief food.
Few have been dug in Imenti, traditionally an agricultural-rich region.
The solar-powered boreholes now provide large amounts of water, where farmers now draw water for their farms and homes.
Farmers like Fidelis Mikwa, Hellen Kinya and James Ekiru have tapped into the reservoirs and directed the water to their farms, where they produce tomatoes, onions and other vegetables and high-value crops.
Mikwa has gone a step further and used the water to do fish farming, with three ponds.
Mikwa also has tomatoes, onions and bananas.
After years of lack of water for farming, Mikwa says he has been able to do what he loves - farming.
“The county government just constructed the borehole and handed it to the community. I used Sh120,000 to lay a three kilometer pipeline to my farm.
"Before I just used to grow maize because there was no sufficient water. Now I have Sh3 million worth of fish in the ponds. I also have one of onions capable of producing 16 tonnes. I sell a kilo at between Sh50-Sh90,” said Mikwa, a father of seven.
Mikwa says his one-acre tomato farm produces up to 400 crates, and with one crate fetching up to Sh8,000, he is now comfortably taking care of his children’s education and other needs for the family.
He has 200 banana plants, and arrowroots, too.
“Our borehole has a lot of pressure because of the large volume of water it has, so we don’t need solar or generator to pump the water,” he said.
Ekiru said the new boreholes have offered relief, and he and others now do not have to wait for the rains to cultivate and plant.
The farmers use the Kabutukei Community borehole in Buuri, which releases large volumes of water that they do not have to pump.
Kabutukei borehole’s capacity is so huge that it has formed a ‘river’ which passes through farms up to the neighbouring Tigania West subcounty.
“I have planted tomatoes, onions, kale, cabbage and other vegetables on two and half acres. I sell a kilo of tomatoes at Sh50. I can say I am making good money and I am able to take care of my family’s needs, unlike before where I had to stop farming when rains failed,” said Ekiru.
Jackson Murombo, the chairman of Murombo Community borehole in Tigania West, said the 198 members contributed Sh2,500 each for pipes, and now they have clean water in their homesteads.
“We raised Sh500,000 to construct a pipeline to our homes. Our families now have water, and can use it to grow vegetables and other crops,” he said.
Governor Kiraitu Murungi, his deputy Titus Ntuchiu and Chief of Staff Gideon Kimathi, on a tour of the farms made possible by the boreholes project, lamented that some solar panels had been stolen, and asked the community to be good custodians.
“My vision was to provide you with the water you need to grow food, and to improve your health. We will continue to sink more. Imenti region has tea and coffee, Igembe has miraa. I want Tigania to use the water to grow macadamia and other crops, to be food secure,” Murungi said.
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