The KIT project “Smart Water for Agriculture in Kenya” is aiming to reach 20,000 farmers by the end of 2019. The goal: creating better irrigation for farmers, and in turn, better food security.
The project has recently recently received a succession of high-level government support. It includes the Kenyan Principal Secretary, State Department for Irrigation, Fred Segor, who has lauded its work. Additionally two recent articles in the Kenyan press have showed the extent of its success.
However the articles also describe the country’s huge need to improve food security—what the government has called “the Big 4 Agenda on food and nutrition security.” Among other aims, they mention the mammoth size of the Government’s plan for increasing maize production in Kenya, and the important role of irrigation in the process.
A different approach
The four-year long project is tackling water management at the grass-roots level. With improved access to finance, information, and investment in the sector, the work covers many areas. What’s more, it is building on Kenyan farmers’ own initiatives in developing irrigation for agriculture. Another key aspect is the strong focus on women: the aim is at reach at least 10,000 women among the farmers targeted.
KIT’s agricultural-development advisors Laurens van Veldhuizen and Remco Mur are behind the KIT project. They are hoping to support farmers in a country where around 90 percent of the land is arid or semi-arid and has highly variable rainfall.
“It is the bottom-up, farmer-led, approach that makes this project relevant and attractive for KIT,” says Laurens van Veldhuizen. “More importantly, the project is working with the small-farmer-irrigation sector in Kenya by strengthening the relevant private and public institutions involved.”
Almost a year before the project ends, it is well on the way to realising its 20,000 people target. But above the numbers and targets, ultimately the aim is to help improve food security across the country—and the lives of many people in the process.
As recent statements by Kenyan government figures, NGOs, and the Dutch Embassy in Kenya make clear (see the articles above), institutional change can dramatically improve food security across Kenya. Furthermore strengthening support-systems for small-scale farmers—not just large-scale operations—is an area that is vital to the country’s long-term success.