Inadequate rainfall and poor uptake of smart water solutions for smallholder farmers, has for years hindered profitable crop production and capacity of Kenya to attain and sustain food security. While the country has endeavored to reverse the anomaly through irrigated agriculture, the sector has operated without coordination of the diverse stakeholders for optimal impact.
This was until Thursday, 12th April 2018, when the National Irrigation Acceleration Programme (NIAP) was formed at a convening of stakeholders drawn from government institutions, research, academia, private sector, NGOs, farmer association met in Nairobi.
The initiative which is spearheaded by the JKUAT based Water Research and Resource Centre and the not-for-profit international development organization, SNV is the first in the country to bring together relevant stakeholders at the national level.
Despite Kenya having irrigation potential of 1.342 million ha, only 161,840 ha representing 12% of the potential had been brought under irrigated agriculture by 2013.
To fully develop the capacity, WARREC Director, Prof. Bancy Mati said Kenya can leverage smart solutions like harvesting and storage of surface water. The platform, she added, would be critical in advancing irrigation agenda in the country.
“It will allow expert knowledge to reach farmers while ensuring that issues affecting the famers reach the decision makers, for a more harmonized and targeted intervention,” Prof. Mati said.
While reiterating the commitment of SNV towards actualization of the new platform, the Organization’s Country Director Jeen Kootstra said there are a number of innovations including those related to solar energy as well as financial products that could be harnessed to support Kenya’s irrigation enterprise.
The launch of NIAP follows successful pilots in five counties namely: Machakos, Nakuru, Meru, Laikipia and Uasin Gishu. The Irrigation Acceleration Programmes (IAP) in the devolved units were supported by the SNV’s Smart Water for Agriculture programme.
Irrigated agriculture could significantly hoist the government’s desire to achieve food and nutritional security. Equally, without adopting innovative water solutions, the country could face 31% deficit risk between water demand and supply by the year 2030.
According to James Mwangi of Laikipia Wildlife Forum, the County’s IAP managed by 14-member management committee, has supported over 400 stakeholders within six clusters.
Among key issues to be addressed by the NIAP are policy review, information collation and dissemination, value chain bottlenecks, coordination and capacity building.