Agro-hydrological evaluation of on-farm rainwater storage systems for supplemental irrigation in Laikipia district, Kenya uri icon

abstract

  • Semi-arid agro-ecosystems are characterized by erratic rainfall and high evaporation rates leading to unreliable agricultural production. Total seasonal rainfall may be enough to sustain crop production, but its distribution and occurrence of intra-season dry spells (ISDS) and off-season dry spells (ODS) affect crop production. Rainwater harvesting (RWH) and management, especially on-farm storage ponds for supplemental irrigation offers an opportunity to mitigate the recurrent dry spells. Farm ponds are small runoff storage structures of capacities ranging from 30 to 100 m(3) used mainly for supplemental irrigation of kitchen gardens, and sometimes for domestic and livestock water supply. The main objective of the study was to evaluate the hydrological and economic performance of farm ponds with the view of assessing their contributions to water and food security in semi-arid agro-systems of Kenya. Agro-hydrological evaluation of on-farm runoff storage systems entailed field survey, monitoring of water losses, analysis of rainy seasons and dry spell occurrence, soil moisture and water balance, estimation of supplemental irrigation requirement (SIR) and farm-level cost-benefit analysis of cabbage production using low-head drip irrigation system. Significant water losses through seepage and evaporation, which accounted on average for 30-50% of the stored runoff, is one of the factors that affect the adoption and up-scaling of on-farm water storage systems. Frequency analysis of rainfall revealed that there is 80% probability of occurrence of dry spells exceeding 10 and 12 days during the long rains and short rains, respectively. The occurrence of off-season (after rainfall cessation) dry spells was more pronounced than intra-seasonal (within the rainy season) dry spells. The length of intra-seasonal (10-15 days) was less than off-season dry spells (20-30 days). The occurrence of off-season dry spells coincides with the critical crop growth stage, in particular flowering and yield formation stages. A 50 m(3) farm pond with a drip system irrigation system was found adequate to meet supplemental irrigation requirement for a kitchen garden of 300-600 m(2) planted with a 90 days growing period cabbages. The cost-benefit analysis showed that farm ponds are feasible solutions to persistent crop failures in semi-arid areas which dominant most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). (c) 2004 Elsevier B.V All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2005
  • 2005
  • 2005
  • 2005

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