Choosing the best drip irrigation for your farm in Kenya
The cost of drip irrigation on a farm is mostly determined by the type of crop grown
Drip irrigation is known to be the most efficient type of irrigation in the world as it only passes water to the roots of the plants. Plants make better use of water when they get it through their roots. Drip irrigation unlike other types of irrigation does not spray water to the leaves and stems of plants. Drip irrigation in Kenya is gradually being embraced by farmers because of its benefits and potentials of increasing farmers’ yield significantly.
A typical drip irrigation system consists of drip tapes or drip lines or tubes or pipes, main pipes, sub-main pipes, emitters, punch tools, and sometimes a piece of fertigation equipment like a venturi injector system. The network of drip pipes or tubes in the drip irrigation system enables the system to distribute water to every plant on the farm.
Cost of Drip Irrigation in Kenya
The cost of a drip irrigation system per acre in Kenya varies from KES 105,000 – KES 137,000.
The major types of drip irrigation systems are:
- 1 Line Per Bed
- 2 Line Per Bed
- 3 Line Per bed
NB: Drip lines or tape are installed on 1M raised beds with a spacing of 30cm walking pathways.
The drip irrigation price tag can also be determined by the thickness of the drip tapes, the length of drip tapes, the pressure compensating capabilities of the drip tapes, and the type of filter in the drip irrigation system.
The planting population of a farmer can also dictate the cost of the drip irrigation system he will use on his farm. A farmer growing onions for instance will need more drip tapes than a farmer cultivating Tomatoes. Onions are planted tightly, so a farmer that needs to drip irrigate an onion farm will need to buy several rolls of drip irrigation tapes, unlike a farmer that needs just a few rolls for his Sukuma wiki or tomato farm.
Where can I buy a drip irrigation system?
You can buy a drip irrigation system through our irrigation division Drip Village by clicking HERE or call/WhatsApp 0798 857 668 to make inquiries.
Benefits and uses of drip irrigation
The use of drip irrigation by farmers in Kenya and indeed other countries of the world has a lot of advantages. The main advantage of using the drip irrigation system is its efficiency.
The drip irrigation system saves water, energy, and cost. This in turn makes you earn more. Whilst other forms of irrigation use a lot of water, drip irrigation uses just a fraction of what other types of irrigation use. Below are some other benefits or advantages of using drip irrigation:
- Availability of water all year round: Drip irrigation allows farmers to irrigate their crops all year round. They do not need to wait for the rains before their plants can get water. Drip irrigation encourages drip-fed farming in Kenya instead of rain-fed farming. Rain-fed farmers are mostly poor because they cultivate their crops at the same time and sell their produce at the same time, this causes a glut in the market and depressed prices while those who cultivate their crops with drip irrigation can sell their produce at the lean time of the year at high prices, thanks to the wonders of drip irrigation.
- Increase of crop yield: One of the main advantages of using drip irrigation is an increase in yield by crop farmers. I have seen tomato farmers in Moiben, Kenya that recorded a 98% increase in yield just because they converted their flood irrigation system to a drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation encourages high-density farming in vegetables and tree crops, this system can increase crop yield significantly. The opportunity to pass fertilizers to plants through drip irrigation tubes can also increase crop yield significantly.
- Uses water effectively: Drip irrigation systems typically use about 10-20% of the water used by sprinkler irrigation systems. Water is passed to the roots of plants in a trickle or droplet manner in drip irrigation systems thus saving water. Unlike sprinkler irrigation systems that waste a lot of water through the indiscriminate sprinkling of water on the farmland.
- Fewer weeds on the farm: Sprinkler irrigation and flood irrigation systems encourage the growth of weeds on farms because they spray water indiscriminately. Drip irrigation systems only pass water to the roots of the plants – where the water is needed most. Weeds can reduce the yield of crops by as much as 98%. Weeds also encourage pest and disease infestation.
- Labor efficiency: Have you ever seen how crops are irrigated through flood irrigation. A lot of laborers are needed to irrigate plants through flood irrigation and other types of irrigation. In the case of drip irrigation, a single laborer or personnel on the farm can irrigate 10,000 hectares of farmland. He can even irritate the farmland on his bed by using internet enabled drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation can also reduce the cost of applying fertilizers by side dressing or top dressing through the use of fertigation equipment.
- Reduced disease pressure: Drip irrigation does not spray water on the leaves and stems on plants, so the incidences of fungal diseases are greatly reduced unlike other types of irrigation like rain guns which spray water on the foliage of crops.
- Fertigation: Fertigation is the application of fertilizers or nutrients to plants through the drip irrigation system. Venturi injectors or dosing pumps are the main tools used in fertigation. I am sure you have seen farmers using their hand to side-dress and top-dress fertilizers on their farms, this is inefficient, time-consuming, and expensive. With fertigation, all a farmer needs are to mix his fertilizers in water and pass it to the crops through the drip irrigation system. Fertigation enables farmers to fertilize their plants every day or intermittently, this can increase yield significantly.
- Chemigation: Though a new concept in farming, chemigation is the application of chemicals or pesticides to plants through the drip irrigation system. Chemicals like nematicides, systemic insecticides, systemic fungicides and acaricides, etc can be applied to plants through drip irrigation tubings. For example, soil that is infected with nematodes can be treated by the application of nematicides through the drip irrigation system. Plants that are infested with insects can also be cured by the application of systemic insecticides through the drip irrigation system. Systemic fungicides can also be applied through the drip irrigation system to address the issue of fungal diseases on crops.
Who needs drip irrigation in Kenya?
Every farmer in Kenya needs drip irrigation. As a matter of fact, if you have a small garden in your home, drip irrigation will also be beneficial to you. You will be able to grow vegetables during the dry season and save on grocery costs.
Drip irrigation will be useful for farmers all over Kenya, be it in Nairobi, Athi River, Baragoi, Bomet, Bungoma, Busia, Chuka, Embu, Garissa, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Iten, Kabarnet, Kajiado, Kakamega, Kapsabet, Kangundo, Tala, Kapenguria, Kerugoya, Kiambu, Kibwezi, Kikuyu, Kilifi, Kisii, Kisumu, Kitale, Kitengela, Kitui, Kwale, Limuru, Lodwar, Lokichogio, Lamu, Machakos, Makindu, Malindi, Mandera, Meru, Mombasa, Naivasha, Nakuru, Nanyuki, Narok, Nyahururu, Nyamira, Nyeri, Vihiga, Voi, Wajir, Webuye, Wote, Wundanyi etc
If you are planting vegetables, cash crops, and orchards, etc., drip irrigation will be beneficial to you.
For example, a tomato farmer who has always used flood irrigation for his farm can increase the yield of his tomato crop significantly if he uses drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is fantastic for vegetable farming.
Factors to consider when looking for the best drip irrigation system or kit in Kenya
To buy the best drip irrigation kit in Kenya, the following factors has to be considered:
- The technical expertise of the drip irrigation dealer: Will you rather buy a medication from a pharmacist or from a roadside seller that knows nothing about pharmacy? This also applies to drip irrigation systems. Most of the drip irrigation sellers in Kenya know nothing about irrigation or farming, this makes them sell poor quality drip irrigation systems to unsuspecting farmers. Some even sell the type of drip irrigation kits that are not suitable for the crops being cultivated by the farmer. Never buy drip irrigation kits from sellers who know nothing about farming and irrigation!
- The quality of the drip irrigation system: You should check the quality of the drip irrigation kit before buying. Ascertaining the quality of drip irrigation tape or tubing can be a challenge for farmers as you cannot know the quality of most drip irrigation tapes by merely touching or looking at them. A good guide is for you to avoid ridiculously cheap drip irrigation systems.
- Is the drip irrigation tube UV resistant? You need to ask this question if you are buying drip irrigation systems in Kenya. If the drip irrigation system is not UV resistant, it will get damaged within a very short time. Do not rely on what is printed on the package of the drip irrigation system. Some sellers will print UV resistant on the package of the system just to deceive people. This is one of the reasons you have to purchase your kits from reputable dealers in Kenya.
- The thickness of the drip irrigation tape: This is another way some dealers deceive farmers. That a drip irrigation tape is thick does not mean that it is good or of high quality. Some drip irrigation tapes are not thick but they can last far longer than the very thick type. Do not be deceived by the seemingly thick nature of drip irrigation tape. I have seen a farmer who bought an 0.4mm thick drip tape in the past while another one bought an 0.20mm thick drip tape, the farmer that bought the 0.20mm thick drip tape is still using his drip irrigation tape to date while the 0.40mm thick drip tape is not usable again.
- Parameters of the drip irrigation system: You need to consider the parameters and attributes of the drip irrigation system before you buy. Do you want a drip irrigation tube that emits 2 liters of water per hour? What is the diameter of drip tubes that will be appropriate for your crops? Do you want a pressure compensating drip irrigation system?
Components of a typical drip irrigation system
A typical drip irrigation system has components; the components are explained as follows:
- Drip Tapes: Drip tapes are the light polythene hoses that are installed on the surface of the soil. The drip tapes are laid parallel to the rows of plants on the farm. Most drip tapes come with pre-installed emitters, that s, a farmer does not need to perforate them or install separate emitters on the drip tapes. The thickness of normal drip tapes varies from 0.10mm to 0.40mm. In Kenya, the thicker the drip tape does not mean that it will be durable than the ones that are not thick. Drip tapes that are thicker than 0.40mm are called drip tubes. Drip tapes can be unblocked if blocked with dirt.
- Tank and Mainpipe: Most drip irrigation kits do not come with a tank and mainline as the farmer is expected to have his source of water already set up on the farm. The main pipe is the delivery pipe that comes from the source of water (well, borehole, dam, or river) to the tank at the farm or where the drip irrigation kit will be installed.
The main-pipe can be a PVC pipe, HDPE, or a lay-flat hose. Other components of a typical drip irrigation system are:
- Ball Valves
- Drip Connectors (Take Off, Rubber, Starters, End Drip Caps)
- HDPE, PVC Pipes
- Punching tool (16mm Bolt or 16mm Drill Bit)
- Filtration Unit
Gravity Drip Irrigation System in Kenya
Drip irrigation systems can be installed to work with gravitational force. In this case, an overhead tank or reservoir is connected to the drip irrigation system which makes the water flow with pressure from the overhead tank into the drip irrigation tubes or pipes.
To set up a gravity drip irrigation system in Kenya, a source of water is needed, overhead reservoir or tank, drip irrigation tubes or tapes, and drip irrigation connectors.
Gravity fed drip irrigation is suitable for farmers with small farms. With the gravity-fed drip irrigation system, water can be harvested from rain or other sources into the overhead reservoir.
How to Set Up a Drip Irrigation System
Anyone can set up a simple drip irrigation system. If your farm is less than 3 acres and you like doing things yourself, you can set up your drip irrigation system without needing any technician or plumber. All you need to do is to follow the guide given to you by your drip irrigation vendor.
To set up your drip irrigation system, you need to make sure that you have a good source of water, overhead tank if you are not using the pressurized system, drip tapes, HDPE Pipes, emitters, source of power, drip connectors, end caps, valves, punch tool, and filter.
Depending on the type of drip irrigation tapes you have, it is advisable for the length of the drip tape per row not to exceed 50 meters to 60 meters.