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Solar pumps provide hope for Kenyan communities

Solar water pumps are an innovative and environmentally friendly solution for communities in remote areas in the East of Kenya where there is no electricity and climate change brings drought

A solar panel which powers a water pump for the Kanjooro group in Tharak Niti in Eastern Kenya. Photo : Eyeris Communications / Trócaire A solar panel which powers a water pump for the Kanjooro group in Tharak Niti in Eastern Kenya. Photo : Eyeris Communications / Trócaire

In a remote corner of Eastern Kenya there is a one-acre farm that is thriving, despite the huge challenge of water shortages in this dry and arid region. Here is a group of farmers who have come together – the Kanjooro group – and they are managing to grow watermelons, maize, tomatoes and kale.

Kenya has been badly affected by climate change, and in the Eastern regions, drought used to come every five years or so, but now it is an almost annual phenomenon. The weak and erratic rainfall is attributed to climate change. Climate change isn’t some distant threat to these farmers, it is here and now.

The Kanjooro group in the region of Tharaki Niti is a wide and diverse group, with men and women, and young and old joining in. The youngest member is 27 and the oldest is in her 80s.

Despite the farm being located near a river, until recently it had little or no access to water. Access to electricity is not widespread in Tharaka Niti. So the installation of a solar panel water pump has dramatically changed the fortunes of this group.

Trócaire’s local partner organisation, Caritas Meru, has installed this solar pump in a project funded with support from the Irish government (Irish Aid). The renewable energy of the sun is harnessed to pump water from the nearby river and help the farming group to irrigate their crops. It is an elegant solution – it helps to address some of the worst impacts of climate change, and does it in a sustainable way.

Environmentally friendly farming

The group has also been supported by Caritas Meru to learn new approaches to farming that are sustainable and organic. The new agro-ecological techniques they have learnt enable them to conserve and maximise their limited water, as well as reduce dependence on chemicals. They have learnt how to prepare sunken beds, how to prepare and use animal manure as an organic fertiliser, and how to grow their own seedlings. As well as being good for the earth, these approaches help the farmers to reduce their operating costs.

All this has had a huge impact on the community over the last three years. Now, they no longer have to go to buy seedlings or food at the market. There is enough food now being produced from the farm that they can feed their families from the sale of the produce. Their diet and nutrition has improved, and they are able to earn enough to pay the school fees for their children.

Their enthusiasm for the new farming approaches that they have learned is so much that they are going out into the wider community to encourage them to try similar farming approaches. They also have a mission to plant trees around their farm to help reduce the effects of drought in their community. They look forward to buying and accessing more farmland to implement everything they have learnt.

A global problem

Drought and water shortage is a huge global problem and is only worsening as the planet heats up. In Kenya alone, over 3 million people were affected by the drought caused by weak rainfall this year.

Access to water is one of the most challenging global issues:

  • Around 4 billion people – nearly two-thirds of the world’s population – experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.
  • 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home.
  • More than 700 children under five years of age die every day from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
  • Women and girls are responsible for water collection in eight out of ten households with water off-premises

In 2010, the UN recognised “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life”.

Yet there is hope – innovations like solar water pumps can change lives, and do so in a sustainable way. For the Kanjaroo group in Kenya, their lives have been transformed due to their pump, and by learning new farming techniques. Drought to them looks like a thing of the past.

Your support this Christmas

Would you like to give the gift of water? Our Christmas Gifts include the Gift of Water for €100, which will support projects providing water pumps, irrigation systems, water conservation and water harvesting.

For something even more impactful, for €1,000 , consider ‘Fix a Well’. This gift will give communities the skills and equipment needed to fix and maintain wells that have fallen into disrepair. This supports projects that bring clean, safe, water to an entire community in countries such as war-torn South Sudan.

Give the gift of water 

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