Climate change adaptation: A drop at a time.

Climate change has brought with it water scarcity, longer dry spells and late onset/early cessation of rainy seasons. The population is also growing, increasing the demand for water for agriculture. Food security has been threatened in many parts of the world and Taita Hills in Kenya is not an exception.  Strategies to adapt to the effects of climate change are now necessary especially to the small-scale farmers practicing rain-fed agriculture who are among those most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

Community members in the field at Werugha in Taita Hills for the drip irrigation installation.

CHIESA Project develops and shares adaptation options with the farmers in its research areas to reduce their vulnerability and also improve food security. The project, during the month of May installed ten drip irrigation kits in Mwatate (low altitude); Wundanyi (mid altitude) and Werugha (high altitude zone) in the Taita Hills. Drip irrigation has been commended as one of the greatest innovations in agriculture. Plants are watered one drop at a time; no water gets wasted as runoff and all the water goes to the root of the specific plant where it is needed.

The process began with the farmers clearing the land and preparing a plot of 7m by 15m.

The participants preparing the demonstration plot in Werugha.

The group then build a stand a meter high from the ground to hold the plastic tank. The participants worked together as a team with the guidance of the engineers from Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Mr. Fabien and Mr. Karanja.

 Building a one meter high stand for the tank.

The drip irrigation kit is then put together as shown in the figure below:

[1]  Ball Valve, Filter and Elbow connected 

[2]  32mm end line for closing on end of the 32mm PE sub-main pipe

[3]  Tank connection also showing the drop pipe connecting to the 32mm Tee

[4]  Illustration of how to connect drip line to sub main (see also 7)

[5]  32mm Equal tee 

[6]  Drip line end closure

[7]  Illustration showing drip-line connected to the sub-main (see also 4)

[8]  Drip line emitter (outlet)

Image and information  courtesy of Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)

Once the tank and the gadgets have been set up, a 32mm pipe is unrolled at the upper end of the plot; the open ends need to remain closed to avoid entry of any foreign material.

 Connecting the drip irrigation kit to the tank (L) then to the main pipe (R).

The drip line is then unrolled along the full length of each row; start connectors are added to the larger pipe and the drip lines connected. The ends of the drip lines are closed using end enclosures. The drip irrigation system is now ready for use.

Adding the start connectors and connecting the drip lines.



Drip lines laid out in the plots

The participants then dig holes; apply manure or fertilizer then plant their seedlings. To promote food security, better nutrition and a source of income, the experts recommend planting spinach, tomatoes, kales, carrots, broccoli, cabbage and onions.

Planting the crop along the drip holes.

The drip irrigation system requires regular maintenance to ensure that it lasts long and remains effective. This is done by regular cleaning of the disk filter with clean water and a brush, and can be done twice in a year or more frequently depending on the amount of impurities in the water.  To minimize the formation of salt crust it is advisable to irrigate late in the evening or early in the morning when the rate of evaporation rates is lowest. 

The seedling is planted next to the drip hole.

Drip irrigation can be regarded as a climate change adaptation strategy because it allows for the sufficient use of water and fertilizer or manure; the moisture content of the root zone is well maintained even when the temperatures are high; there is less erosion from runoff water; water is uniformly distributed to the individual plan therefore water is conserved. This form of irrigation is cost effective as it uses less pressure therefore less energy cost and it is not labour intensive.


Click here for the drip irrigation manual.






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Cover Photo Novembwe December