Joseph Musali’s quarter-acre farm in Katani, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is a spectacle to behold as it hosts hundreds of flowering tomato plants.

The area is dry, and has even turned much drier as the rains become erratic, but this has not stopped Musali from running a thriving farm from which he harvests tonnes of tomatoes that he supplies to the insatiable market in Nairobi.

The secret to the success of the venture the marketer runs is irrigation, in particular, the drip system, which hundreds of Kenyan farmers are currently scrambling to embrace.

With the rains increasingly becoming erratic amid huge demand for agricultural produce, Kenyan farmers, especially those growing horticultural produce, have realized they have no choice but to take up irrigation, with the drip being the system of choice.

Both small and big farmers are now using drip irrigation to grow crops that include tomatoes, cabbages, garlic, potatoes, onions and French beans for export.

On the outskirts of Nairobi, tens of farms especially those of young people are now dotted with poly pipes running from one side to other, the hallmark of the drip system.

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“I have about 2,000 plants on this piece of land and this is the second time I am farming the crop. I started mid last year and the tomatoes did very well that I had to replant them,” Musali said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Musali, who gets water from a borehole, said before he decided to farm, he used to believe that the drip irrigation system was affordable to only big farmers who had huge resources.

But this changed when he bought the quarter-acre and decided to try farming so that the land does not stay idle.

“I went shopping and was shocked how affordable the system was. Sometimes it is the fear of the unknown that stops us from doing something. I went to a dealer and realized that I only needed to spend about 700 U.S. dollar on the system,” he said, adding that most of the money went to a 3,000-liter water tank he bought.

The drip system itself, according to him, was inexpensive as the poly pipes cost 0.08 dollars per metre or even less.

Catherine Saranya, a resident of Machakos, noted that she spent some 100 dollars to install the system on her kitchen garden and she is reaping the benefits by growing kales, tomatoes, onions and capsicum for her home use.

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“The pipes cost me 20 dollars, then the 500 litre water tank 30 dollars and the rest of the money went on seeds, making beds among other costs. I am happy I am now growing my own food,” she said.

The cost of the system has come down significantly over the years as competition stiffens among dealers importing the irrigation gadgets.

“Initially, one had to part with at least 300 dollars to get the smallest drip kit that can fit in a 8m by 15m greenhouse, and this was minus the water tank but with 100 dollars you are now set to go,” said Peter Ochieng, an agro-dealer with a shop in Kitengela on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Ochieng noted that prices of drip irrigation system have dropped drastically in the last three years as imports, especially from India rise.

“Most of the drip irrigation kits and assorted parts sold in the country are from India and even now we are seeing others come from China. This has enabled people embrace them.

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“Like here in Kitengela and Kajiado County in general, so many people have installed the drip systems on their kitchen gardens,” he said, acknowledging that his irrigation system shop was among dozens that have sprung up in the suburb in the last two years due to increased demand.

Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer in western Kenya, said smallholder farmers across Kenya are turning to drip irrigation in droves due to reduced prices and to overcome erratic weather as a result of climate change.

“The fact that the system is gravity powered thus eliminating extra power costs normally incurred by pumping water from a source to the farm makes it affordable and appealing to farmers,” he said.

The use of technology, according to Moina, is the simplest way to overcome poor climate and produce food as one uses water efficiently.

“Drip irrigation works well for the small farmer because it uses less water enhancing efficiency and the method can also be used for fertilizer application,” he said. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/Newsghana.com.gh