Sustainable Development Goal Number Six (SDG 6) is aimed at ensuring that everybody has access to safe and affordable drinking water — an essential commodity for human survival.
Water scarcity affects over 40 percent of the world and, with climate change, the situation could worsen. Kenya is a water-scarce country. Its per capita water availability of 600 cubic metres is below the global threshold of 1,000m³ and unpredictable due to climate change and increasing demands at household and farm levels.
In 2017, the government, in partnership with development actors and the business community, launched the Kenya Chapter of Billion Dollar Alliance for Water Harvesting, designed to scale up farm pond technology to increase water harvesting in the arid and semi-arid areas.
Kenya’s climatic conditions for the past six years show a pattern of heavy downpours during rainy seasons and dry spells characterised by wilting and withering of crops and vegetation, reduction of pasture for livestock, leading to death of livestock and conflicts associated with the right of usage of water and pasture, during the dry season.
During the downpours, the resultant phenomenon is destruction of property and infrastructure, loss of life and outbreak of diseases.
In the urban areas, rainfall is seen as a curse due to its resultant effects of massive traffic congestion, accidents and flooding. In these areas rainwater harvesting is a non-priority. According to the 2009 census, only 0.8 percent of urban residents practise water harvesting, whereas in the rural areas it is seen as a big blessing.
The irony, however, is that, once it rains, people congregate in houses or use umbrellas to shelter from raindrops but, once it stops raining, they carry jerricans and follow the water to rivers and other water points!
With massive sensitisation on water harvesting, this tread is rapidly changing. In most rural areas, water harvesting and storage approaches are being applied by households.
Many small and marginal farmers have found farm ponds to be ideal solutions to their water struggles. Besides other benefits, they save women and children from walking for miles to fetch water for domestic use.
They also provide additional sources of income by supporting economic activities such as fish rearing and growing vegetables.
Farm pond water harvesting is a tool for increasing community resilience to recurring droughts and decreasing rainfall amounts. But they face challenges of water quality, high evaporation and downward percolation losses, making it hard for farmers to reap the benefits of the investment.
Despite low excavation costs, other expenses for retaining the water and ensuring good quality make the farm pond unavoidable to certain community segments, hence the need for government and NGO intervention in the entire water harvesting chain.
Farm ponds have the potential of transforming previously dry places and wastelands into agricultural hubs. All partners and stakeholders should play their part in pursuit of this noble goal.
Mr Nyamu, Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI) fellow 2018, is a project officer, Inades Formation Kenya. [email protected]