News / Africa

Kenyan Farmers Going Green

As scientists and political leaders around the world grapple with the issue of climate change, many farmers are looking at technologies that rely on renewable energy for their operations.  Farmers in Kenya are now using two different irrigation pump systems that avoid the use of fossil fuels.

Farmer Edward Kinyanjui jokes that he does not have to take out an expensive gym membership to stay fit.

Kinyanjui has his own personal Stair Master-like machine, which is good for his hamstrings.  But even better, his machine serves a vital function feeding the tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, and other crops on his two-hectare farm just outside Kenya's capital.

Kinyanjui says he thinks diesel-operated pumps play havoc on farms like his.

"For one, the kind of carbon monoxide that it is going to release, it is going to pollute the air," said Kinyanjui.  "Two, as you can see, some of the things that I have around here that you have seen around the farm, they will die because of [the diesel pump] polluting the air."

Kinyanjui's irrigation pump is commonly known as a "Money Maker," produced and marketed by the social enterprise group Kick Start.

"The pump is very - what we call - environmentally sensitive, or light. It is manually-powered, so you have got the ultimate renewable energy, which is human power. There is no electricity needed, no fuel needed, it is 100 percent manual," said Kick Start's chief operating officer Ed Chan-Lizardo.

For engineer Pascal Kaumbutho, diesel-powered irrigation pumps are bad news.

"You should see the oil that is dripping down into the river, and there are people using this river downstream. You should see the amount of diesel prices that are required to keep these farms running," said Kaumbutho, who is head of the Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies.

Kaumbutho is training the first group of farmers in the Mwea area of Central Kenya on how to tap into the area's biggest resource: the sun.

"Everybody knows how much sunshine there is here, all year. Here, when we are installing our solar panels, we do not even tilt them, because the sun passes over them all day,"  he added.

Kaumbutho's group has a demonstration plot on which solar panels provide energy to pump water from the Nyamindi River into a drip irrigation system.  Kaumbutho aims to sell solar panels and drip irrigation pipes to the more than 20 farmers he is training.

The two initiatives are examples of ways that farmers can cut down on fossil fuel emissions that contribute to global warming, which is a type of climate change.

Global warming, where the average temperature of the lower atmosphere increases, is caused by excess emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Both agricultural engineer Pascal Kaumbutho and farmer Edward Kinyanjui have personally experienced the effects of global warming, which include droughts and floods. They say they are doing what they can to protect the environment as they sow and reap their harvests.

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