Embracing sustainable energy and water use in agriculture

How climate-resilient practices support smallholder farming communities in ASAL regions

A photo of women

The energy, water, agriculture nexus and the link to climate change are critical for sustainable food production and food and water security, particularly in regions experiencing natural water resource scarcity and a rapidly growing human population. The vulnerabilities of communities living in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) are high and ever-rising, putting their day-to-day lives and opportunities for development and livelihoods at risk. Therefore, promoting and enabling the adoption and upscaling of climate-resilient practices and innovations among smallholder farmers and pastoralists living in ASAL areas is crucial in strengthening their resilience to climate risks.

One project that has been successful in integrating sustainable solutions for energy and water use in agriculture is the Laikipia Isiolo Samburu Transforming the Environment Through Nexus (LISTEN) project in Kenya. The project, implemented by SNV, AGRA and FCDC with funding from EKN, uses the nexus approach to build the knowledge of smallholder farming communities to adopt climate-smart techniques and practices.

The LISTEN project is working with different farmer groups within Laikipia county, setting up demonstration farms that are fully integrated with climate-smart water, energy, and food production practices. For instance, the Pessi Buffalo self-help group in Kiachiti Sub-location, Salama Ward, has adopted a mix of technologies that integrate water resource management and restoration practices and has different crop varieties for both human and animal consumption.

A photo of a group of farmers working in a plot of land

The Pessi Buffalo group members working in their demo plot.

A group of farmers sit in a circle outside

A consultative meeting between the LISTEN Project Team and members of Pessi Buffalo Group.

The Pessi Buffalo demo plot is set up as a classroom, where different lessons are shared within the same setting ‘For Farmers by Farmers’. The demo farm has a variety of fodder, such as Napier grass, teff grass, Rhodes grass, sorghum, sweet potato, and brachiaria, as well as the highly nutritious high iron bean popularly referred to as Nyota for human consumption. The LISTEN project has helped the group understand the economic benefits and nutritional value of different crop varieties. ‘We did not know the different varieties of fodder in the market, but now we know what to feed our animals. Within this demo farm, one has an opportunity to learn a lot,’ says Mr Peter Mburu, the chairperson of Pesi Buffalo group.

The project has further assisted some members of the group in becoming part of the local Pessi Water Resource User Association group and Ward planning Committee, creating a one-stop-shop for agropastoral knowledge products. ‘Being a member of our local Ward Planning Committee, I have unlimited opportunities of engaging directly with the county government to push for changes affecting us, especially those related to water,’ adds Mburu.

The project has also partnered with the Access to Solar Water Pumps Laikipia (A2SPL) project, another SNV project in Kenya which works to accelerate access to appropriate, reliable, and affordable energy sources to smallholder farmers by enhancing local distribution and uptake of quality solar-powered water pumps. ‘By using solar as a renewable energy source, we significantly lowered fuel costs for pumping, and also understood that this method reduces emissions and lowers the effects of climate change,’ says Mburu.

A photo of a yellow solar water pump.

Solar water pump at the Pessi Buffalo Group demo farm.

a photo of fodder in a plot of land for farming

Fodder and forage at the Pessi Buffalo demo plot.

The capacity building on water resource use management that the Pessi Buffalo group has received was also appreciated. ‘This solar water pump has also helped us save on water. Before the A2SPL team visited us, we were using flood irrigation methods, but now we use drip irrigation, specifically sprinklers.’ The group signed an agreement amongst themselves, promising that every member will use sustainable solutions and one or more of the different crops they were trained on in their own farms.

The LISTEN project is committed to supporting smallholder farming communities in building their resilience to climate change and enhancing their capacity to respond to its effects. By partnering with groups like Pessi Buffalo and establishing integrated demo farms, the project is equipping farmers with the knowledge and tools necessary to adopt climate-smart practices and overcome the challenges posed by climate change.

Through this integrated approach to sustainable energy and water use in agriculture, we are contributing to improved food, water, and nutrition security for communities living in ASAL areas, and paving the way for a more sustainable future.