by Ronald Njoroge
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Ben Kilonzo has
been facing reduced maize yields due to insufficient rainfall.
The 55-year-old small-scale farmer from Kitui County, in
southeastern Kenya, has been relying on rainfall to cultivate
maize since he inherited his farm from his father over 20 years
However, due to erratic rainfall, he has been incurring
losses as crops fail to reach maturity.
Kilonzo said his only other option to get water for his crops
is fetching water from a river nearby, using 20 liter
"However, this is a time-consuming activity given the amount
of water the crops need before they are ready for harvesting,"
Kilonzo told reporters on Saturday.
Fortunately for Kilonzo and other farmers located in the
semiarid area in Kenya, there is abundant sunshine throughout
To solve the rain-deficit problem, Kilonzo bought a
solar-powered water pump for about 10,000 Kenyan shillings (98.3
U.S. dollars) to get water from a neighboring river.
"I have now been able to double my maize yields despite the
erratic rainfall patterns by using solar technology," he said.
Samir Ibrahim, CEO of agriculture technology firm SunCulture,
said that climate change is a reality that is affecting farmers
Despite Africa having large tracts of arable land and
two-thirds of its workforce in the agricultural sector, the
continent remains a net importer of food, Ibrahim said.
One of the challenges facing farmers is lack of affordable
access to water to irrigate their crops, he said.
"However through use of technology such as solar-powered
pumps, farmers can have enough water for their crops," Ibrahim
According to him, Africa is the only continent facing a water
scarcity that is not a physical water scarcity but an economic
water scarcity as farmers cannot afford to pay for water from
both surface and underground sources.
"By having access to affordable water sources, African
farmers can massively increase their productivity and yields at
farm level," he said.
Technology also exists in the market to ensure that even
small-scale farmers can engage in precision irrigation and use
water much more efficiently, Ibrahim said.
Edward Kipkoech, a farmer in Kenya’s North Rift region, has
also been using solar-powered pumps to irrigate his crops.
He has since diversified away from maize and grow high-value
vegetables such as kales and capsicum due to now all-year-round
availability of water.