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Irrigation does the magic trick for Kilifi farmers

 A maize and banana plantation at the Chakama Smallholder Irrigation project in Magarini Sub County, Kilifi County. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

Farmers in Chakama in Magarini Sub County, Kilifi County have embraced irrigation farming as a way of coping with negative effects of climate change. The more than 450 farmers have turned their 500 acres of land into farmland by using water from river Sabaki and boreholes to irrigate various crops.

Through the Chakama Gaba Farmers Association, the residents were supported by the Coast Development Authority (CDA) to come up with the Chakama Small Holder Irrigation project that was commissioned by retired President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2014. The authority assisted farmers with farm inputs including water pumps, pipes and tilling of the land. 

Eunice Joshua said since she ventured into maize and banana farming, her lifestyle has improved as she is now earning good money from farm produce. 

“We started with maize and bananas and after harvesting, I ploughed back the profit to the farm and my life has changed for the better,” she said. 

 More than 500 farmers have turned to irrigation farming as a way of tackling the negative effects of climate change. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

Mr Joseph Sababu, another farmer said from his one acre farm, he grows maize and sells to traders who make roasted maize in urban areas. 

“Farming is profitable even though there are challenges but we earn good money from our produce. From my acre I make between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000 depending on the availability of water,” he said.  He however, decries the high cost of pumping water from the river since he has to use a generator yet the prices of fuel is very high eating into his income. 

“Some of us are forced to hire generators and pipes and that goes for Sh500. To irrigate an acre of land in a day, the generators consume eight to nine litres of petrol which is costly,” he said.  His sentiments are echoed by Mr James Mtawali who tills is half an acre piece of land and has to rely on fuel to get his farm green. 

“I get between Sh20,000 and Sh25,000 from selling my maize harvest and 1,200 cobs fills one sack,” he said. 

The chairman of the farmers group, Mr Solomon Kitsao said the cost of fuel and transportating it from the nearest town in Malindi which is at least 60 kilometers has pushed some of them out of business. 

“The farmers own individual farms but we have amalgamated them and into five blocks and all of them are under crops. Some farmers have been unable to till their land because of the high cost of fuel,” he said.

“During the rainy season all farmers tilled their land but when the drought came many could not afford the cost of fuel to run their farms,” Kitsao said. 

The Principal Secretary for Arid and Semi-Arid Idris Dokota visited the farmers last week and promised to help address some of the challenges they are facing.  He was accompanied by CDA Managing Director Mohamed Keinan Hassan and is Tana River Development Authority counterpart Liban Roba Duba. 

“Most of these products in the small holder irrigation schemes are subsistence but we are going to invest in water harvesting so that more land can be put under crops and by doing so we will cut on the food imports,” said PS Dokota. 

Mr Hassan said due to the ever changing cause of the River Sabaki, the authority has invested in portable water pumps. 

“We once put up an expensive water pump but the River changed its cause forcing us to revert to portable water pumps that are also cheaper,” he said.  

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