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Enhancing food security and afforestation through novel approaches to irrigation


The Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) hosted a workshop on enhanced food security and afforestation in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, Kenya Water Institute, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, and Kenya Forestry Research Institute.  This was through grant funds for a one-year project titled “Enhanced Food Security and Afforestation through Novel Approaches to Irrigation” under the Newton Institutional Links Programme funded by the British Council.

The one-year project hopes to investigate novel methods of irrigation in the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya, develop a prototype of a solar thermal fresh water generator that can be used to desalinate brackish water and identify causes of failure of existing reverse osmosis desalination systems in the country.

Food-water-energy nexus

In attendance were key practitioners in the food and water sector from the private sector and Non-Governmental Organizations: Oxfam International, Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Vision, the Department for International Development, the embassies of Sweden and Norway and the Kenya Climate Innovation Center.

During the half-day workshop, the project’s findings were presented and further collaboration of workshop participants in research and partnerships by forming a Global Engagements Network in order to address pressing issues in the food-water-energy nexus was also discussed.

Water Security in Arid and Semi-Arid Areas

Speaking on behalf of Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Gladys Wekesa highlighted the main challenges facing the water sector in the country such as growing water demand due to rapid population growth increasing demand for domestic and industrial water use.

With regard to water quality from water analysis conducted by Kenya Water Institute, high fluoride levels were recorded in the Nairobi region. It is evident that borehole water which serves many residents in Nairobi is not fit for human consumption. For the case of Lodwar town in Turkana, samples collected from three water boreholes showed high salinity levels raising fears concerning the health status of Turkana residents. Further analysis is needed to cover a larger part of Turkana County.

Solar Thermal Desalinator

 A solar thermal desalinator, which was built using locally available materials and tested at Kenya Forestry Research Institute offices in Lodwar, produced more than one litre of fresh water from saline water per hour. This demonstrated the possibility of a low-cost locally constructed desalinator using readily available skills (local labor and expertise) and materials.

To address global challenges affecting food and water security, there is need to restructure current channels of information dissemination to reach the targeted beneficiaries by encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration and coordination among stakeholders involved in community development projects.

This article was written by Patrick Mwanzia.

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