Welcome to AIAP – the Platform that Accelerates Irrigation in Kenya
Irrigation is undoubtedly the ultimate way to manage water for agriculture, because as the saying goes; “Crops don’t need rainfall, crops simply need water”. Little wonder that early civilizations were driven by irrigated agriculture in mostly arid regions such as in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Today, the international food systems, particularly the horticultural sub-sector, are largely driven by irrigated agriculture. Similarly, basic ingredients for improving the quality of food and human nutrition, such as vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, are mostly grown under irrigation. Without irrigation, foods such as rice, potatoes, most vegetables and fruits would become unavailable and/or unaffordable, while major agricultural income streams would disappear.
Within Kenya, farmers with access to irrigation are a step ahead of those who rely solely on rainfed agriculture. Indeed over 83% of Kenya’s land are endures arid environments, in particular, low and unreliable rainfall. But irrigation is poorly developed. As of 2015, only about13% of the known irrigation potential of Kenya had been developed – but that potential refers to areas with access to surface water resources (rivers, lakes, swamps). However, it does not include the potential of lands which could be put under irrigation if rainwater harvesting and storage were developed in all suitable areas. This would particularly increase irrigation in arid and semi-arid zones. In a nutshell, the irrigation potential of Kenya is huge and the opportunities are greater than has been documented. If it was within my power, I would enable all farmers who wish to irrigate their crops achieve that feat. It is not and I am not the only one who feels that way. We are quite number and we have come together to share ideas and do something about it.
There is much work to be done, as irrigation needs to be expanded, improved and upscaled,if agriculture is to shift from subsistence to “agriculture as a business”. Another paradox is that farmers already engaged in irrigated agriculture in Kenya face monumental challenges. These include; unreliability and inadequacy of irrigation water, pests and diseases, high costs of inputs, low farm-gate prices for their produce, archaic technologies, marketing hitches, lack of credit, post-harvest losses and a myriad of issues that render irrigated agriculture unprofitable. Farmers need help, and a majority of them are simply yearning for knowledge to do the right thing, reach the right contacts, linkages to markets, sources of finance and to make a profit from their efforts.
Granted that irrigators in Kenya are clustered in irrigation schemes, farmer groups, commodity interest groups, cooperatives or as individual farmers, each doingwhat they can, but they remain disconnected. At the same time, there are institutions that support irrigated agriculturesuch as; national and county governments, parastatals, NGOs, CBOs, development partners, financial institutions, irrigation technology providers, marketing companies, universities, research institutes and other organizations. However, there have been fewinclusive forums for all cadres of stakeholdersto give irrigation one voice. But that was then. Now we have got AIAP.
At last all stakeholders who implement, invest in, support, promote, consume or simply admire irrigation and its niche have a one-stop platform for convergence of ideas, knowledge and action, to upscale the sector. Now we have the Association of Irrigation Acceleration Platform (AIAP).
Welcome to AIAP!
Prof. Eng. Bancy Mati