Archive for May, 2007

Water for production

Thursday, May 24th, 2007 by

Rebecca marches to Make Poverty History in Edinburgh, 2005Mrs Rebecca Musyoka, Farmers leader, Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum

Aid for Africa. Will it reach farmers? Will it power development? These were some of the questions and concerns during the “Make Poverty History” week in Edinburgh two years ago.

If you remember, the leaders of G8 promised to increase aid in Africa. Here we are almost three years down the line and what have we seen? Very little. I came to the UK and marched together with others in Edinburgh, in the hope people in Africa would have their voices heard and action taken.

However all that I can see that has happened is small scale farmers in Kenya – who make up a huge 80% of the country’s population – are continuing to struggle and suffer every single day. Our crops are failing; maize has dried up leaving little to harvest. Many youths have had to migrate to towns to look for jobs; leaving heavy, hard work for the women.

I live in the semi arid area called Yatta District in Kenya. We are farmers and as you would expect, we rely on rainfall but it is becoming more unreliable and more inadequate. Our crops wither and dry up, yet farmers have to collect these as they provide much needed food for the animals. This is not ideal; but the animals have little else to feed on. Sometimes when an animal is passing they stare as if begging for some hay but we have none to give them.

Picking paw-paw Waiting for relief food

Communities have to spend a whole day waiting for relief food which is not even adequate, leaving less time for other activities. We can produce our own! We can feed ourselves! We just need some support.

What do we need to ensure we can climb our way out of our predicament? We need water for irrigation which would allow us to continue farming; crops and livestock would thrive and we could retain our dignity and not have to rely on handouts.
 
Interestingly, the Yatta District has good soil, usually good weather, and is in the middle of two rivers running their waters to the Indian ocean. There are dams but the water is used for hydro-electric power only. Aid money could be targeted to pump this water for us to use for irrigation.

Yatta Canal

The Yatta canal was dug by our forefathers who were arrested when they were fighting for independence. It has provided water for irrigation for a very small area. Sometimes there is no water because it has been used by large scale farms growing pineapples and flowers.

Sadly, people keep on fighting over water along the irrigation scheme. Last year two young boys were watering their crops in the evening. When the water could not reach one of the boy’s farms, he went to his neighbour thinking that he had prevented water from reaching his farm. He found him directing the little water available to his crops. He hit him on the head using the blunt heavy side of his Jembe, killing him instantly.

There was total confusion and disbelief. Why was life lost here? The answer is water, water which is essential for production. Let us use aid money better – let us use it to construct a reservoir dam near the canal and increase and sustain water in the canal to prevent this happening; let us use aid money to pump water and irrigate the whole district.

Success stories

Despite our problems, we do have success stories. Irrigation has meant women like Dorcas have had their lives transformed and now has enough water for her crops. She told us: “I lived in a poor house.  My children were not attending school. Now my husband has been able to build a good house, buy a car and our children are doing well in secondary schools and college.”

Just think, with the right investment, entire communities could see such a benefit.

Dorcas (left) My shallow well

I used to have a water tank on my roof to catch rain water, which I used for cooking and to irrigate my small farm. But when the rains failed and the tank was left empty, it began to crack. I sold my bulls and paid two strong men to dig a shallow well for me.  At the depth of 65 feet, water started coming out. Although I was left without bulls to assist me to plough, I cannot express my joy. Again, aid money could be used to dig shallow well for families and provide valuable water for them and their animals, which are so important to our lives.

As I said earlier, I was there during the G8.  More and better aid for Africa was promised. Mechanisms should be put in place to make sure that the funds reach the grassroots, small scale farmers in Africa, who need the support the most.  

We in Yatta District will continue to sing the same song, water for production!  We know the funds are there, and more will be coming, so give us knowledge and Maji!  Maji for Production!  We will produce our own and we will feed ourselves.

Mrs Rebecca Musyoka,
Farmers leader, Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum
E-mail: rwmusyoka@yahoo.com