Monday, January 23, 2012

Kenya goes solar to help farmers

Solar pump project aims to ease Kenyan water shortages
23 Jan 2012 - Blue skies and sunshine don’t make Joseph Katitu a happy man.

The 49-year-old sorghum farmer and father of nine shakes his head at the glaring sun as the last cloud fades in the sky above him.

“Mvua haitakuya (The rain will not come)!” he sighs.

The lack of gathering clouds is an ominous sign that Tseikuru District, some 230 km (150 miles) east of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, will have to wait a while longer before the heavens open again.

But the power of the sun will soon be turned to the advantage of farmers like Katitu. The Kenyan government plans to install 2,000 solar powered pumps in arid regions of the country to reduce the water shortages caused by erratic rainfall, which is believed to be associated with climate change.

The pumps will provide clean drinking water to villagers while avoiding the costs and the pollution caused by diesel powered pumps.

Kenya’s Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation has entered into a partnership with Bola Associates, a Kenyan firm, and US-based DACC Global, to supply and install the systems. Each one comprises a solar panel, a submersible pump, a purification system and a holding tank.

The cost for each system is approximately 11 million Kenyan shillings ($125,000), including the cost of drilling a borehole, according to Doug Melvin, the owner of DACC Global.

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