News and knowhow for farmers

Shade nets key to unlocking productivity in arid and semi-arid lands

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By George Munene

Pur­posed for hot and dry arid and semi-arid re­gions, shade nets help to re­duce water evap­or­a­tion rates by up to 55 per cent and have shown to im­prove growth by over 30 per cent com­pared to farm­ers prac­ti­cing open-field farm­ing. While green­houses are now a com­mon fix­ture in most farms, shade nets have not been as widely ad­ap­ted with many farm­ers un­aware of their sig­ni­fic­ant be­ne­fits.

Shade houses are use­ful to people in re­gions that ex­per­i­ence little rain­fall as they reg­u­late heat and wind in­tens­ity—the two main causal agents of evap­or­a­tion—cre­at­ing a mi­cro­cli­mate that is cooler to the out­side en­vir­on­ment. They are graded to provide shade levels ran­ging from 30 to 90 per cent.

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“In es­pe­cially arid re­gions of the coun­try such as North East­ern and inner Kitui, shade nets are hav­ing a trans­form­at­ive ef­fect on the lives of Kenyan farm­ers who do not have to be locked out in the in­tens­ive pro­duc­tion of high-value crops such as cap­sic­ums, to­ma­toes and ve­get­ables,” says Richard Mwan­zia an ag­ro­nom­ist at Agroz Kenya; a shade net man­u­fac­turer that has been in the Kenyan mar­ket for seven years.

Be­sides boos­ted crop pro­ductiv­ity and re­duced wa­ter­ing costs, the nets also mod­er­ate in­stances of pest at­tacks by re­du­cing the re­pro­duc­tion rates of thrips and white­flies.

“For wet and cool parts of the coun­try, I would re­com­mend the use of green­houses, and dis­suade farm­ers from opt­ing for shade nets as they will in­tensify these con­di­tions mak­ing their farm­ing area dump which in­creases the dis­ease and pest bur­den,” Richard ex­plains.

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Shade nets are cheaper than green­houses and are less la­bour in­tens­ive in their con­struc­tion. Shade houses cost Sh60 per square meter with a wooden 8* 20-meter shade house cost­ing Sh50,000 to put up. A farmer will also need to in­stall a drip kit within the struc­ture which costs Sh10,000 to 15,000. Shade nets also usu­ally last longer, five to six years, to green­houses, which have a usual 3½ year life span.

Riachard Mwan­zia, Agroz Kenya: 07075591213

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