Having water made such a difference

Joseph Ireri from Kangai, Kenya.  - Picture by Justin Kernoghan.
Joseph Ireri from Kangai, Kenya. - Picture by Justin Kernoghan.

Money raised in the north of Ireland during Trócaire’s Lenten campaign helps thousands of farmers in the world’s poorest countries survive in the face of enormous challenges posed by climate change.

Joseph Ireri is one of those who has benefitted…

Joseph Ireri (38) counts himself very lucky. A farmer, he owns 1.5 acres of land in Ishiara, Kenya but in the past it hasn’t produced enough to support his family. This part of Kenya has always been prone to drought but people knew to expect it and in the past were able to plan for when it struck. In recent years, however, the weather patterns have become totally unpredictable. Rains come early and wash away seeds or come too late to nourish the crops.

“No matter what I did, I couldn’t grow enough food to feed my family,” says Joseph. “I had no choice other than to leave my home and look for casual work so I could earn something.” Joseph did what many thousands of men and women have had to do in this area. He moved to a city in the hope of finding work. In Joseph’s case this was Mombasa, 600km away. In terms of easy and regular travel back home, this could just as well have been the other side of the world.

Joseph could very well have still been in Mombasa, separated from his family, if it hadn’t been for an irrigation scheme funded by Trócaire. The parish of Ishiara, one of Trócaire’s partners, started installing an irrigation scheme in the area in 2011. This simple scheme saw the laying of pipes which take water from the river and feed it by gravity to local farms. There is now 30km of pipe laid and 700 households served by the scheme. Joseph’s is one of these households.

“The water has made all the difference to my family. Without it I would still be away. It has restored the predictability to farming,” Joseph says. “Before I would only have grown maize and would have been very lucky to get one or two harvests a year at most. Now I am growing maize, tomatoes, kale, spinach, onions and melons. I can get four harvests a year. I have not only enough to feed us all but also produce enough to sell in nearby Ishiara market.”

This new way of life has transformed the fortunes of this family. The children, two boys aged 8 and 2 and a half, are eating a much more balanced diet which has improved their health. The family has an income now through selling their surplus and this has meant school fees can be paid for Joseph’s older son. Joseph has even been able to buy chickens with his profits that supply a valuable source of eggs and protein for the family.

“We are very happy now and it’s all down to the simple fact that we have water,” says Joseph. “I have high hopes for the future. I want to continue to work hard on my land and maybe build a new house and ensure my two boys complete their education.”

“This irrigation scheme is the perfect example of Trócaire’s work in action,” says Catherine Mururi, from Ishiara Parish. “In the mid-1990’s all we could do was give emergency food to people in times of drought to keep them alive. Now we have given people back control of their own destinies. We listened to the people to find out what would make the biggest difference to their lives. The irrigation scheme ensures that water is always available. It has empowered the people and the scheme is locally managed by a very strong community water management committee. There is total community buy-in and the scheme shows that bottom-up solutions work best.”

To find out more about Trócaire’s Lenten campaign log on to www.trocaire.org/lent or call 0800 912 1200.