Jan 30, 2017

Entrepreneurship can address Kenya’s drought crisis

The drought situation that Kenya is currently experiencing ranges from moderate to severe especially in the coastal and northern parts of the country. It is predicted that the situation is likely to get worse in the coming months up until April when the long rains are expected. However, in the past two years, there has been a delay pattern sometimes getting to early May with very little rainfall.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Kenya experienced decreased rainfall in 2015 and 2016 and people have barely recovered from the effects. In Nairobi, residents are affected by water rationing and there is a likelihood the cost of electricity will go up in the next few months.

The negative effects of climate change are now being felt across the country. The situation calls for a radical change in the way business has previously been conducted. The evidence is clear that business as usual will not continue to serve this country. The country must adopt a green economy pathway.

It is high time that key players in the society - government, businesses, civil society and academia - change focus to high priority issues like food security and building the resilience of Kenyans to cope with the weather extremes that are increasing in frequency and intensity.

Key to the expansion of any economy is the net expansion of entrepreneurship. Kenya’s green economy model must among other things foster an environment that encourages the flourishing of green enterprises especially small and medium enterprises. Already these small enterprises have come up with innovative products and business models that are helping to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

For instance, Kickstart International now manufactures agro solar pumps that use solar energy to pump water from depths of up to seven meters. These pumps are a good replacement for diesel pumps that many small scale farmers use to irrigate their crops. Their main benefits include no recurrent costs, no noise and no pollution of the environment. These benefits should make every farmer replace their diesel pump with a solar pump, but that is not the case. The cheapest solar pump costs about Ksh40,000 (USD 400) while a diesel pump costs half that amount. Unless there is some intervention at a policy level, farmers will continue to use diesel pumps that are more expensive to maintain and still pollute the environment. There are other companies selling different models of the agro solar pumps like Future Pump, Sunculture, and Davis and Shirtliff. However, the uptake has been slow.

Another example is Ukulima Tech, a company that provides vertical gardens to urban and peri-urban residents allowing them to grow vegetables on small portions of land and even balconies. The vertical gardens are very economical in the amount of water used and can even be irrigated remotely. The gardens can allow farmers to have a year-round supply of vegetables provided they have some water reserves. 

Hydroponics is also another innovative solution that is being promoted by Mineral and Allied. The technology involves growing crops in water with adequate mineral nutrients in a controlled environment. In Kenya, shade net is being used to control temperatures in sections where hydroponic crops and fodder are grown. Even though the crops are grown on water, the system is ten times more water-efficient compared to growing crops in an open field using soil.

These are just a few of the technologies that have received support from the Kenya Climate Innovation Center. There are climate adaptation technologies suitable for almost any region in the country. The main challenge has been that Kenya lacks a mechanism to promote and increase awareness of the existence of such technologies.

Thankfully the Climate Change Act which was enacted in September 2016 has a provision for incentives for the promotion of climate change initiatives. Hopefully, there will be a mechanism where the Kenyan public can learn about existing solutions for climate change and a structure that facilitates people to own and use these technologies.

 

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