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Water harvesting increases Mwingi farmer’s livestock herd

charles mwingi


Goats quenching their thirst at a water pan in Charles Kalili’s farm/PHOTO/COURTESY. 


Mwingi farmer Charles Kalili has tripled his livestock herd from 20 to 63 goats, and sheep from 20 to 52 after building a water pan to harvest water for his animals.

In February 2017, the farmer bought the animals from the International Livestock Research Institute at a cost of Sh200,000 only to find out that there was inadequate water for the animals as the region is a drought prone area.

“Initially I used to take my animals to quench their thirst two kilometers away from my home at a neighbors homestead, this was tiresome and time consuming but with the water pan I can harvest 500,000 liters off run-off water in a rainy season enough to last for half a year,” said Kalili.


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According to UNICEF, drought conditions that started in 2016 and are expected to persist in 2018 have left 3.4m people severely food insecure and an estimated 500,000 people without access to water.

A report published in the International Journal of Climatology reveals that Kenya is highly vulnerable to drought. Only 20 per cent of the country receives high and regular rainfall. The remaining 80 per cent is characterized as arid and semi-arid lands where rainfall is highly variable and drought is a regular feature of the climate.

The arid and semi-arid lands house more than half of all livestock in Kenya and more than a quarter (30 per cent) of the population; these are among the most vulnerable populations to rainfall variability and drought.

Kalili’s ewes are a cross-breed of doper and red Maasai sheep that gave birth to 19 lambs in May 2017 but the young ones were could not get adequate water supply to sustain them.

The red Maasai sheep is a fat-tailed indigenous sheep drought tolerant breed renowned for its resistance to endoparasites, mainly gastrointestinal parasites, the dorper on the other hand is

In November 2017, the farmer procured raw materials at a cost of Sh100,084, the capital drawn from a joint contribution with his sister to construct the water pan.

The materials included a dam-liner, bricks and cement procured from Nutri-Fresh Farm and Agrihub, a company that seeks to create agripreneurs out of Kenyan subsistence farmers.

The pan he constructed measured three meters deep, 25 feet wide and 50 feet long which Kalili says enabled him collect about 500,000 liters of water during the October to December short rainy season.

“After completion of the water pan, I used to fetch water manually using buckets and this was a risky job as it exposed the surface of the dam liner to erosion and probable leakages, however in January this year I purchased a generator at Sh14,000 to pump water easily to the troughs for animals,” said Kalili.

“With three liters of petrol, I can pump at least 600 liters a day continuously for a week enough to keep the livestock thirst free,”

The water troughs are strategically located near the pan and the animals have their water all day round.

The farmer targets the festive seasons such as Eastern holiday and the Christmas period to sell his animals at the Mwingi market. He expects to sell a mature ewe at a cost of Sh7,000 to Sh8,000, a mature ram at Sh9,000 to Sh13,000 and a nanny at Sh4,000 to Sh5,000.

With assurance of having water all year round, the farmer plans to venture into onion farming in the next two to three months.

Kalili can be reached on +254 703 126 710

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