Water is a precious resource in the semi-arid landscape of northern Kenya. For farmers who often have a limited and sporadic supply, finding ways to save water and minimise wastage can mean the difference between life and death.
Drip irrigation (also known as trickle irrigation) involves setting up a system of small diameter plastic pipes along the base line of the crops. The pipes, fitted to a water source, have tiny holes spaced evenly apart that allow water being pumped through them to drip into the soil slowly - directly to the root zone of the plant. Drip irrigation can save between 30 and 50% of the water used by other methods. With this system, no water is lost due to run off and evaporation, and none of it is taken up by weeds.
Drip irrigation has enabled farmers to move away from riverbank areas, reducing illegal river water abstraction. Donations from Gorta and ICEP have allowed Ol Pejeta to supply 1300 drip kits to 18 surrounding communities. Lengetia Farm, through a donation by Kenya Commercial Bank, initiated a revolving fund which was used to provide kitchen garden drip kits - now accessed by more than 3,000 farmers. The Conservancy has also offered farmer groups a market for fresh produce with preference given to those using drip irrigation and conservation agriculture – this is a significant incentive for farmers.
Together with the Zeitz Foundation and NEPcon, Ol Pejeta is taking part in the Biodiversity, Communities, Carbon and Livelihoods Project (BCCL). The Project promotes sustainable farming methods, including drip irrigation, and is involved in 10 areas within Laikipia County.