Effective water management by a Kenyan farmer

In Kenya, where sixty per cent of all agriculturists are small farmers with less than 5 hectares (ha) of land, Peter Saku is an interesting case. A marginal farmer of Kifurusha village in Kenya's Machakos district, he grows 11 different kinds of produce on his meagre 0.5 ha. What makes this an achievement is that he farms in a country where only 15 per cent of the land is arable, rendering extending cultivation extremely difficult. The key to his success? Effective water conservation techniques.

Saku's was not always this successful. In 1998 he grew just one crop, maize. That earned him a paltry income of Kenyan Shillings (ks) 4000 (about us $52)."There was extreme water-shortage and planting any other crop would have been a disaster,' he says. Most farmers in Machakos had a similar predicament. Inadequate rainfall, scarce water supply (in 2002 it was 17 million cubic meters as against the demand of 47 million cubic meters) and paucity of land (the density of population here is 150 people per square kilometers) had made agriculture a difficult proposition in the district. Having rainwater-harvesting structures would mean precious agricultural land gone