A Nairobi-based dealer in farm equipment says irrigation is the next big thing in agriculture as the country strives to attain food security. G North & Son, which imports and exports irrigation equipment, has recorded growth in business over the past five years and see the trend accelerating with more government investment going into irrigation to enhance food security.
Mr Elijah Mugah, the manager in charge of irrigation division at G North, says “There has been a significant growth of investment in irrigation in the country both by the private sector players and the government – annually” he said.
The government has identified irrigation as a key pillar of Vision 2030, the long-term economic blueprint that aspires to make Kenya a middle-income economy. The Jubilee government has promised to put one million hectares of land under irrigation, a development that will create more opportunities for investors.
“Farmers should be made aware of the existing irrigation technologies as well as encouraged take farming as a business,” HE President Uhuru has often said.
G North installs and distributes irrigation equipment from world-renowned suppliers for drip lines and accessories, greenhouse and tunnel covers and dam liners (geomembrane material) for water harvesting and dam construction, high pressure/long distance water pumps, silage plastics as well as portable aluminium irrigation sets and pivot irrigation systems.
The company, which has been in the business since 1963, offers irrigation solutions in Kenya and exports to other regional and African markets. With physical location along Mombasa road 3km from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and a branch office in Nakuru, along Gilani Street in lower industrial area, believe they are strategically positioned to meet customers’ needs.
Mr. Mugah says the market is growing with other regional governments also engaging in irrigation technologies and water harvesting to realize food security and achievement of the MDG’s (Millennium Development Goals).
To achieve this they offer water harvesting solutions by installation of both small scale and large scale dams by use of dam liners, drip irrigation and greenhouses.
“Slowly and surely there is an incremental and noticeable adoption of these technologies,” he said in an interview. “The market is there for sure, in fact, a very big market because the solutions we offer to cater for water management, modern water harvesting, fish farming, floods which is being very helpful with the global warming effects.”
He said increased commercial farming has put the private sector at the forefront of promoting irrigation, who are developing and supplying modern irrigation solutions in the country. “With irrigation, the farmers are in charge of their production cycles and schedules. This is very critical in meeting the market demands and increasing profitability of farming ventures. Farmers can produce their crops when they want since we offer backyard kitchen garden, open field irrigation, water treatment, and floriculture for farmers who are on low cost investment like those doing mushrooms and strawberries,” he said.
The government is shifting from rain-fed to irrigation agriculture as food shortage threatens to run out of control. Currently a comprehensive countrywide irrigation expansion programme intended to gradually cover the 1.7 million acres of potential irrigable land in order to transform our country into a food secured and net exporter of food is under way. In the fiscal year 2011/12, for instance, the government allocated Sh10.2 billion to irrigation.
Kenya is a water scarce economy and its per capita water availability is way below international levels, worse than some of its East African neighbours, and therefore construction of more dams could help a lot.
According to a 2008 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Kenya’s current per capita water availability of 792 cubic meters falls below the scarcity threshold and the projected population growth will further pile pressures on already limited supply.
Mr Mugah said horticulture and floriculture sub-sectors are currently the biggest market for irrigation equipment, but other sub-sectors are coming up. “Any farmer growing crops and plants as a business venture is better off using irrigation. By use mulching papers and hydroponics (soil less growing) where crops are planted on troughs, farmers are flexible in controlling how their crops grow .Worldwide; irrigation will continue being part and parcel of modern farming especially in water scarce country like ours.”
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