The Emaiyanata Self Help Group is located in the dusty, dry and hot landscapes of Lenkobei village in Shompole East location of Kajiado County. The group that is composed of 21 women and 2 men have decided to beat all odds to empower themselves economically through practicing climate smart agriculture. This was after realizing that keeping livestock alone is becoming more risky due to rainfall variability and erratic patterns being experienced in recent times affecting access to sustainable water resources, pasture and food production. The group is a symbol of hope and resilience in Kajiado County, where drought brings devastating catastrophes to the pastoralist community.
The starting point
In the year 2014, the group was identified by the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) in partnership with Act.Change.Transform! (Act!) for capacity building on climate smart agriculture as a way of enhancing communities’ resilience to impacts of climate change while improving food security at household level. “As women in this arid region of Lenkobei we sat down and decided to engage in crop farming to supplement our livestock which often succumbs to drought hits,” says Sipion Ene Leketony, a member of the group. She observes that all cows have to be taken to the Nguruman Hills that is over 30km away where they can get some pasture and water.
Prior to introducing crop farming to the women’s group, several meetings were held to discuss issues on land allocation, water availability, group members’ participation and roles. The group then approached Shompole group ranch who allocated them 1.5acre plot for their farming activities.
According to Saaloi Leshashi, chairperson of Emaiyanata Self Help Group, the project is God sent. As their name loosely translates to a ‘blessing’ in Maasai language the women say “we have seen lives transformed here in Lenkobei village”.
With financial support from the embassy of Sweden and the united Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID), ALIN supported the group in establishing a solar powered drip irrigation system for horticultural production covering the one and half acre farm.
The farm is supplied with water from Nguruman Hills. To ensure water availability throughout the planting season, the group members dug a water storage pond with capacity of over 150 cubic metres. The members also fenced their farm to keep off marauding livestock and wildlife.
Setting up the drip irrigation system
The group members were trained on setting up the drip irrigation and management of the system in October 2014. During the training sessions, a 5,000 litres water tank was mounted on a firm metal platform with an elevation of three metres above the ground bringing about enough pressure to irrigate the land. The members dug trenches to lay out the water piping system on the one acre farm that was subdivided into 8 smaller plots and each plot installed with a gate valve for controlling water during irrigation.
The drip irrigation tapes were then connected to the water pipes and laid throughout the one acre piece of land where one raised bed had two drip tapes. The final stage involved mounting the water storage tank. A water filter was fixed at the water tank outlet to reduce clogging of the drip tapes. The group members learned that it is important to regularly check and clean the filter to ensure smooth water supply to the farm. To test the drip irrigation system, the storage tank was filled with water and each of the eight farm units opened at intervals for water to drip and wet the soil. The group then planted at the wetted soil zones tomatoes covering four blocks and onions and kales on the other four blocks. The group learned how to control common pests and diseases using non chemical means. The members intercropped fruit trees that include passion fruits, pawpaws and mangoes. Grevillae trees were planted along the fence to act as windbreak when fully matured.
Kajiado Women group reap big after practising CSA
During the season October 2014 to January 2015, the group members harvested for the first time plenty of tomatoes and onions. They had a ready supply for their families. “For the first time this year, we enjoyed our Christmas because we just harvested onions and tomatoes from our own farm! We also sold to the local market and people could buy directly from our farm. Initially everybody used to get vegetables from Olkramatian 12km and Shompole 24km away and only on market days”. Remarked Saalo the chairlady of the group. According to Saalo, climate change effects are real and cannot be taken for granted anymore. She notes that coping with changing climate has led to the improvement in diet as tomatoes and vegetables are grown in plenty.
“We’ve learned a lot from this project. With the limited water supply, farmers are able to irrigate one acre using little water’. Remarked Mr. Joseph Ntiiti, Assistant Chief Shompole. Mr. Joseph indicated that high levels of poverty and illiteracy are some of the challenges facing the community. “All we need is exchange field trips to other regions to expose local farmers to modern farming methods more practically,” explained Joseph.
In October 2015, the group harvested plenty of passion fruits of which they sold and consumed at family level. The group members and communities around the project have really learned a lot on crop farming using irrigation, application of manure, crop protection, harvesting and marketing. They expect in the next 2 years to start harvesting mangoes.
Among the challenges facing the group is reduction of water supply during severe droughts and occasionally there is a breakdown within the water supply system from Nguruman hills.