Dama Katana Ngonbo is a determined woman. Determined to continue her life as a farmer and grow enough food to feed her family and send her children to school.
In an area where the lack of rain has caused near to 100% crop failure, it seems like Dama is faced with an impossible task. But she is certain that the answer to her problems lies not in waiting for the rain to fall, but by irrigating her land. This is far from easy in a country where there is little government support or investment in agriculture.
Unless you have the money to install an irrigation system, complete with a water storage unit, pump and pipes as well as the money to pay for fuel, waiting for the rains may seem like the only option. But after all of the crops failed on Dama’s farm earlier this year, she resolved to take the situation into her own hands.
First, she found a piece of land where the water table was high enough for her to access underground water. Then, with the help of her neighbours, she spent three weeks digging a well deep enough to give her a reliable source.
Now Dama spends her days irrigating her land by hand. The method is simple: she has a bucket on a string to draw the water from the well, and then a self-made watering can – basically an old vegetable oil carton with holes in the bottom - which she uses to distribute water evenly over her crops. Whilst this may be a makeshift solution, Dama’s hard work gives little reward.
To get close to a water source Dama has had to rent land that is a one and a half hour walk from her home. This lengthy process means she’s only able to farm a fraction of her land. She explains: “…the process is long. We have to draw water and then irrigate our crops by hand. If we have to do it twice it can take up most of the day – some times I do it from 6am to 11.30am and then again from 2pm until 6pm. The whole farm is three acres but because I’m doing it alone, I am only able to water half an acre.
We have livestock to look after so my husband spends his days doing that. My children are in school, sometimes they help me on Saturdays and Sundays, but I would never take them from school to help on the farm.
Dama has been a farmer all her life and is desperately trying to make it a viable livelihood for her future. Unfortunately, her hard work alone is not enough. A simple irrigation system Dama could farm her whole three acres, giving food security for her family, a surplus to bring in an income, and in time, enough income to cover the cost of running the system independently in the future.
With funds raised through our emergency appeal, ActionAid will be supporting farmers like Dama with drip irrigation systems so they can make the most of their land and have a reliable year-round source of food.
Donate now and help bring simple technologies to Kenya’s farmers.