Solar-powered Irrigation: Study of Ingotse Village, Kakamega County, Kenya
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Empirical data indicate a positive correlation between agricultural and gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Kenya. Despite experiencing mixed results over the years, agriculture remains the mainstay of the Kenyan economy. The agriculture sector contributes about 30% of the GDP and accounts for 80% of national employment, mainly in the rural areas. Cross-country estimates also show that GDP growth originating from agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP originating from outside agriculture. This case study describes the community of a small village called Ingotse in Kakamega county in western Kenya. Like most rural, food-insecure communities in sub-Saharan Africa, Ingotse village relied on rain-fed agriculture for production of staple crops. Rain-fed agriculture is limited to a 3–6-month rainy season in the Eastern African region over the year; due to climatic changes the Kenya Meteorological Department has predicted poor distribution and reduced rains that are expected to adversely affecting agricultural production and supply. In addition to potential annual caloric shortages, households in Ingotse village faced other challenges. They were forced to stretch their stores of staple crops to the next harvest but because of late harvest, they had to purchase additional food, mostly at higher prices and their access to micronutrients through home production or purchase diminished significantly during the dry season. Typical smallholder staple production systems are both risky and relatively low return as the commercial value of staple crops is amplified by poor yields and erratic rainfall. The energy sources available were not sufficient to change the livelihoods of the community. The utilisation of biomass energy posed health risks due to indoor air pollution and indiscriminate charcoal harvesting, which contributed to environmental degradation. The development of solid biomass energy also faced a number of challenges including demandsupply imbalance, indoor air pollution which particularly impacted on women and children, environmental degradation, use of inefficient conversion and utilisation technologies and non-adherence to recommended standards. With this predicament, farmers in this village raised some funds to sink a borehole. This was done in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) known as Water for All which gave the community a solar-powered pump to distribute the water to the homesteads. Water from the borehole was used for irrigation, providing food crops all year round. Women and children no longer had to walk long distances to the river to fetch water; they had extra time in their day for other activities such as doing homework with children. Download the full document

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