Getting Water for Your Farm

When you start thinking of going into farming, the first thing that comes to mind is water availability. It is almost impossible to succeed in farming without a reliable water supply in your farm, and that is the challenge many young farmers are facing today. Water unavailability is a global crisis, a situation that calls for innovative and sustainable means of acquiring water for agriculture as well as other domestic uses. Other than the common water sources we know which include rivers, lakes, streams and dams, which are only beneficial to those in close proximity to them, there are other ways a farmer can obtain water for farming;

a) Rain Water Harvesting

For a long time this has been a very effective source of water for subsistence farmers. It is the collection and storing rainwater from rooftops using simple vessels (gutters) fixed at the edge of the roof. All you need to have is a roof constructed with galvanized corrugated iron, aluminum, tiles or slates. Thatched roofs laid properly can also serve the same purpose, only that the water collected will not be as clean. Also roofs with coatings or paint are not highly recommended as you may never know what chemicals will be contaminating your water. Rain water from the rooftop is collected in the gutters, which can be made of iron or aluminum, then diverted into storage containers or tanks. An ideal 5000L plastic tank in Kenya goes for around Kshs.30,000. This can comfortably sustain drip irrigation for your farm. It is also possible to construct an underground storage tank, which will definitely be larger. Rain water is preferred for sensitive uses such as in a greenhouse. You can also maintain the quality of the water collected by regularly cleaning your gutters as dust, leaves and other dirt collects with time.


b) Water Pan

This is a simple, cheap and low maintenance method of water collection that any farmer can manage. It is a small pond dug on the lower part of a slope to collect surface runoff during heavy rains. In cases where the ground is leveled, terracing can assist with the water collection. The pond is then lined with a polythene just in case the soil is a lot more permeable. The size of the water pan will vary depending on your needs together with the site conditions. A normal size will be about 400M³ which is enough for irrigation and livestock. You might need a water pump for irrigation purposes if you have a bigger farm.

Water Pan

Water Pan

c) Water Wells & Borehole Drilling

Despite it being an expensive means of water extraction, it is more effective in the long run and it’s commonly used by many farmers to obtain water for irrigation. Water wells can only be drilled in areas where the water table is high. A borehole is a water well that has been fully installed with casing and a well screen, and it can be drilled several meters deeper than water well.

d) Sand Dams

Sand Dam

Sand Dam

A sand dam is a reinforced concrete wall built across a seasonal sandy river. It is another simple and low cost method of water conservation that retains rainwater and at the same time recharging groundwater. A single sand dam can provide enough water for farming and domestic use for an entire village, lasting several months after the rains have fallen. Constructing a sand dam requires communal efforts. If you have a seasonal stream in your village, think about mobilizing other young farmers like you to construct one. I guarantee you it will be worth your while.

By Victoria Chengo