Agriculture remains the most important economic activity in Kenya, although less than 8% of the land is used for crop and feed production. Less than 20% of the land is suitable for cultivation, of which only 12% is classified as high potential (adequate rainfall) agricultural land and about 8% is medium potential land.
The rest of the land is arid or semiarid. About 80% of the work force engages in agriculture or food processing. Farming in Kenya is typically carried out by small producers who usually cultivate no more than two hectares (about five acres) using limited technology. These small farms, operated by about three million farming families, account for 75% of total production.
Makueni county in Kenya is classified under the category of a semi-arid region. Small holder farmers here depend on rainfall for farming which is very scanty. This season alone most members will have less harvest from their farms as the rains were very disappointing.
David kyongo a farmer in Makueni County in Mativo village tells me that, “for the last 10 years or so the rains have been disappointing thus as farmers we get very less harvest. The rains not only affect our farming activities but also availability of water in most of our rivers thus drinking water becoming another major challenge.”
“The worst thing in life is missing food and water at same time, you don’t know what to look for first because they are all important.” Quips David.
I am a retired teacher and since my retirement in 2005 I started farming. I started small irrigation using water from a river. I can say I am lucky because I leave less than a kilometre to a river. I had connected pipes to the river for pumping water to water the vegetables I plant. During the dry spell, water would become so scarce and I would dig to the sand for more than 8 feet to get water. When it got worse all the plants would dry. I have never given up and every time I prayed for a solution to our water problem in our area.
Until last year in 2016 that’s when I met a neighbour who told me about sand dams and how they have transformed their lives. I got interested with the idea and even went ahead to visit one of their sand dam. It was a big concrete wall constructed across the seasonal river with a lot of water. To me I saw it possible in our area as well. I enquired from him how they got to do all the amazing job. He was very willing to connect me to the field officer who works with a certain organisation (ASDF). I booked an appointment with the officer and met.
Since we had a group which we use to help each other in planting trees and terrace digging, it was easy for us to be absolved by the organisation since they work with self-help groups.
We started collection of local materials such as sand and stones which are required for construction of a sand dam. It never took long and the organisation supplied us with hardware materials and a artisan. The real work begun and to me all these was an answered prayer. With 25 members in our group the heavy work was not easy but since we experienced same problem, lack of water we were never discouraged by the less number.
Within a month, we were able to complete our first sand dam and in December it was full of water. I have already planted kales, onion and watering my mangoes with water from the sand dam.
As a group, we have a vegetable farm that we have planted kales, onions and tomatoes. We have sold 3,000ksh today which is our first harvest. In a day since we have planted a lot I am expecting the sales to go up say 10,000 Ksh.
I believe this sand dam has solved a major problem in our area, water and food. Many people from other neighbouring village come over to buy vegetables and same time fetch water for their own use.
Poverty will be a thing of the past in our area now.