Home | TheWaterBlog

TheWaterBlog: If you want to share unique images and observations in this section, or would like to know about syndicating these posts, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

 

Postcard from Mbitini: Roads against Drought

by Bobsammy Mwende Munyoki & Luwieke Bosma
August 29, 2017

Kenya: an economy that is growing quickly and a country that has emerged as one of Africa’s star performers. New transport infrastructure, roads and railways; a penetration of mobile phones and the innovative ‘Mpesa’ mobile money network; diversity of enterprise; the envy of neighbouring countries. 

And yet there is the other Kenya – with 28 droughts in the last hundred years, a stat that is not improving with the passage of time. The last ten years had three droughts. Crop failure, livestock deaths, increase of food prices, severe food shortages, hunger, diseases and conflicts continue– now also driven by climate change, land degradation and population growth. 

Mbitini, Kitui
Many things can be done to break this long lasting trend. A major one is to transform the arid and semi-arid landscapes so they retain much more of the rain water that comes down in two short and intense wet seasons. Within this repertoire of water buffering measures, the harvesting of water along the many roads is one of the most under-utilized ones. The practice is getting more and more common, but it still has a long way to go. 

To demonstrate how road runoff harvesting can be used as a tool against drought, research was done in Mbitini Ward in Kitui County. As typically ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid Land) region, its climate is hot and dry, with people highly dependent on the erratic, bimodal rainfall. 

The majority of households in Mbitini do not have enough food throughout the year. Failing harvests means that families cannot sustain themselves throughout the dry spells. However, harvesting water along the ubiquitous roads can make all the difference, the research among 74 households found. In the study, the food security of households that practised water harvesting along the roads was compared with those who don’t. 

77.4% of respondents expressed that their  yields had increased since adopting road runoff harvesting. The higher yields were seen in maize, beans, green grams, pigeon peas and cowpeas. For example, the expected yield of maize before practicing road runoff harvesting was 1 bag (90kg) per ¼ acre. It increased to 2.6 bags with road runoff harvesting. With this simple measure, yields have more than doubled. As a result, farmers have got more income from their farms, and this translates into improved food security in their homes. 

The research showed that during both rainy seasons, the average income from farming is higher for those who practice road runoff harvesting. The difference is around USD 20 per household (53 with RRH – 33 without) after the long rains. After the short rains this difference is as much as USD 40 (93 with RRH – 53 without). 

This income increase of USD 73 per year maybe compares favourably to the nominal investment of USD 24 USD  in guiding road runoff to and on the farm. The cost is low and mainly engages free off-season labour from family members. In Mbitini, Kitui County, road runoff harvesting is used to spread water on the land for irrigation directly or stored for brick making, watering livestock and supplemental irrigation.

The type of road runoff harvesting designs utilized in the area are simple in nature.They mainly involve constructing soil bunds across roadside drains and excavating channels to route water into the farms. Mbitini is yet to realize the full potential of the practice, so farmers are encouraged to optimize techniques to reduce evaporation, infiltration losses and siltation. 

Hence this postcard from Mbitini: with good news that effective and wide scale measures to address drought are there, alongside the still recurrent droughts. The solution does not need many words, but ‘just do it.’

 

  • ‘Bajajs’: Filling the Mobility Gap in Rural Ethiopia

    ‘Bajajs’: Filling the Mobility Gap in Rural EthiopiaPosted by Abraham Abhishek, Cecilia Borgia, and Kebede ManjurJuly 17, 2017Blue-and-white three-wheeler motorized rickshaws, droning a constant drone as they lurch their way along unpaved roads, is a common sight in rural Ethiopia. The rickshaws are commonly known as ‘Bajaj,’ after what was perhaps the first brand to break into the Ethiopi...

    Read more

  • Postcard from Marracuene, Mozambique

    Postcard from Marracuene, MozambiquePosted by Frank van SteenbergenJune 30, 2017A civilization is measured by its care and not by its casualty – its attention for detail, its compassion for others, its cleanliness and attention for an environment jointly shared. This is where sanitation comes in and this is where things in many areas of the world have gradually improved. Maybe not as spectacular...

    Read more

  • Rice growing in the water

    Rice growing in the waterBlogpost by: Palal Moet MoetDo you know how to sow rice in deep water? In the soil – of course: ultimately all plants have to be rooted in soil. But what I want to describe is floating rice (FR) which is a range of traditional rice varieties adapted to large changes in flood water levels that occur during the rainy season. Can you believe if I say floating rice can elong...

    Read more

  • Lake Malawi: The Vanishing Blessing

    Lake Malawi: The Vanishing BlessingBlogpost by: Blessings Jeranji Shores of lake Malawi, everyday businessMalawi as a country has been blessed by a lake called Lake Malawi. It is not just a blessing but a source of blessings to the country and its people. These blessings visible in support of the country’s Agro-based economy. The lake is connected to all operations of sectors in the country. The...

    Read more

  • Gash the traveler

    Gash - The TravelerBlogpost by Ahmed A. Bagi Alamin  She starts her journey in Asmara City, and she always gets up after the heavy rains. Then she moves towards Sudan. It is somewhere in June. She crosses all the wonder valleys and passes the green hills, until the prospected guest reaches to Al Geerah village, where the Sudanese show her their respect to visit them. Despite their happiness, she...

    Read more

  • Creating opportunity out of a problem: the hidden cotton plant

    Creating opportunity out of a problem: the hidden cotton plantBlogpost by Celestine Kilongosi Calotropis procera tree is one among the many invasive plants in Kajiado County, Kenya. However, we should not view its growth as an anchor but an opportunity for growth both for the community members and the country in general. Less than 600 mm of rainfall is experienced in this area in a year leading to...

    Read more

  • Starving the Tihama: Impact of War on Spate Irrigation Systems in Yemen

    Starving the Tihama: Impact of War on Spate Irrigation Systems in YemenPosted by Adel Zolail and Frank van Steenbergen May 3, 2017 For reasons no one can explain, a war has been raging in Yemen since 2015. It is clear who the culprits are, and the solutions seem simple – just stop and do something else. But tragically no one seems to bother to resolve. The airstrikes and ground fights have by ...

    Read more

  • The Wider Road to Inclusive Growth

    The Wider Road to Inclusive Growth Posted by Frank van Steenbergen, Crelis Rammelt, Kebede Manjur and Letty Fajardo VeraMay 01, 2017  Here is a gruesome news item from the Guardian on 31 March 2017. “A Kuwaiti woman filmed her Ethiopian maid surviving a suicide attempt and then posted the incident on social media, al-Seyassah newspaper reported. The 12-second video shows the maid hanging out...

    Read more

  • Resolving the Drought Puzzle in Northern Kenya

    Resolving the Drought Puzzle in Northern KenyaPosted by Elly Arukulem YalukApril 28, 2017Drought haunts pastoral livelihoods in Masol, West Pokot county, Kenya Letter from West Pokot: the silent droughtFor many years the pastoralist Pokot people of Nyangaita, a tiny village in Masol area, have endured serious water and food scarcity situations that have gone unreported. Because of the unforgivin...

    Read more

  • Postcard from Harla: erosion, the full brunt

    Postcard from Harla: erosion, the full bruntPosted by Lakew Desta and Frank van SteenbergenApril 26, 2017Here is Harla in Eastern Ethiopia and here is its ancient ficus tree – a reminder of the vegetation that once was. In the last century the area changed beyond recognition. Its steep hills were in rapid time transformed into farm land – at slopes so steep that erosion was a given. Soil rapid...

    Read more