Converting from vegetables to bananas has reduced women’s workload.
Photo: KfW archive / U. Grabowsky


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In the early 1980s, Germany’s KfW Development Bank financed the first irrigation project around Mount Kenya. A reliable supply of water was expected to enable farmers to achieve stable yields. In this way, they could not only safeguard their own food supply but also supply new markets and earn themselves an income. The following article takes stock of progress and benefits.

Even 30 years ago, Mount Kenya's rainy seasons did not always arrive regularly. The predominantly poor farmers in the Mitunguu region had great difficulties in planning the production of their crops. Given the great uncertainty regarding the amounts and distribution of rainfall and ensuing risk of a crop failure, they saw no point in using improved seed or fertilisers. Therefore their production was concentrated on growing a few food crops for their own use; no monetary income was derived from agriculture. In years when the harvests failed (two years out of five) even food security was severely jeopardised. Farmers were then forced to hire themselves out as itinerant labourers in other regions. Illiteracy was widespread. Women and children had to bear a heavy share of the work in the fields just to survive. Social institutions, schools and shops barely existed. 
From 1982 to 1985, KfW on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) financed the first irrigation perimeter around Mount Kenya.

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