Small-scale African farms helped by solar-power irrigation kits



The Kenyan government is known to take extra measures for food security at times a bit too late than expected. The rainy season usually commences in October but this time it is expected to be below average, according to the state-run National Drought management Authority.  

This is why a U.S. startup that sells solar-powered irrigation kits to small-scale farmers is planning to expand to East Africa where there has been very little food security resorting to droughts. So far the company in charge of this new project is from New York a company known as SunCulture that started four years ago and has managed to sell 1,000 units of the equipment that cost as much as 248,000 shillings . This new deal has helped growers mostly in Kenya and plans to move to Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda in coming years. SunCulture, took their time to pilot study the fields for the first seven months with farmers in Kenya. While they were in Kenya they provided the farmers with irrigation systems seeds, fertilizers, agronomy services and after sales services as well as finance.

In an effort to boost food security, the government is planning to double the area under modern irrigation methods to 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) within five years.

Only about 5 percent of African agriculture is irrigated, according to the International Water Management Institute. In Tanzania, for example, the government says it has a 6.8 trillion-shilling ($3.1 billion) irrigation-funding gap.

Regional Expansion

Less than 4 percent of Kenya’s 5.4 million acres of arable land is under irrigation, and four-fifths of that territory requires artificial watering to sustain farming, according to the World Bank. Agriculture makes up about 30 percent of Kenya’s $63.4 billion economy. After harvesting, Kenyan famers will at least be able to produce for well-known vegetable stores such as Zucchini after an off-take agreement. So far the company has funding from different organizations, including shell Foundation for a pilot

After harvesting, Kenyan growers can sell their best produce to Nairobi-based grocery chain Zucchni under an off-take agreement, Weichel said. Farmers will receive the solar-powered pump and irrigation equipment after a small deposit is given. This will be a good opportunity for farmers to make money and at the very least there will finally be good food security.