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June 22, 2011

Central Kenya farmers turn to solar irrigation

by Pius Sawa

Farmers in Central Kenya are embracing solar technology as an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to irrigate their land.

Joseph Mutua has begun using a solar-powered pump to bring water from the nearby Nyamindi River to irrigate his export-bound food crops, which include French beans, baby corn and kale.

Solar panels standing on tall metal poles are connected to a pump immersed in the river, 200 metres away. A pipe carries water from the pump to a storage tank at the farm, and from there it is directed through pipes to irrigate Mutua’s farmland.

Farmers generally use diesel or petrol engines to pump water, but increases in the price of oil are making these pumps increasingly expensive to run.

By contrast, the solar pump, once purchased and installed, costs nothing to run. That enables farmers to spend their money on things like seeds instead of irrigation, Mutua said.

"For over a year now since I bought the solar pump, I have not had any maintenance. It has really saved me a lot of money," said Mutua.

The pump is not cheap addition to its minimal running costs, the solar technology is environmentally clean. Unlike diesel engines, the solar-powered pump emits no pollution or climate changing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The pump also is helping to conserve water from the Nayamindi river

full article...Reuters Alertnet

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