The adoption of low-cost low head drip irrigation in small-scale farms in Kenya
Population growth and development will increase the demands on water resources in Africa, and hence there is a need for agriculture to use water efficiently. Drip irrigation is widely promoted for water saving at the farm level. Moreover, it is easily adaptable to small-scale farming common in Africa. The use of low-cost drip irrigation, especially the low-cost medium head (LCMH) drip system, is growing rapidly in some Asian countries. However, the uptake of low-cost drip irrigation in general has been slow in Kenya, which has scarce water for irrigation. Using the theory of the adoption and diffusion of innovation, this research aimed to identify the factors affecting the rate of adoption and continued use of low-cost low head (LCLH) drip irrigation in Kenya. Following a review of experiences of low-cost drip irrigation from India and sub-Saharan Africa, primary information was obtained using informal interviews in a two-phase survey. A total of eighty-six respondents were interviewed in the two phases. Phase 1 examined the factors influencing the adoption of LCLH drip irrigation. The key respondents in phase 1 were irrigation farmers (drip and non-drip), government officials, irrigation industry representatives, and staff of non¬governmental organisations (NGOs). Phase 2 examined the factors affecting discontinuation of LCLH drip irrigation. In phase 2 only LCLH drip irrigation farmers and those who had discontinued using it were interviewed While the low-cost medium head drip irrigation was the dominant irrigation in India, the low-cost low head drip irrigation, gravity fed and in a kit form, was found to be the most common system on smallholder farms in Kenya. The results showed that for the rate of appropriate low-cost drip irrigation uptake to increase in Kenya, it was important to remove political and institutional inhibiting factors dominant during the implementation stages of the innovation-decision process. It was necessary for farmers to have a need to save irrigation water, reliable irrigation water resources, effective water user organisations, efficient marketing facilities, efficient technical support services, relevant cultural background, and good security for the kit. The LCLH drip irrigation kit appeared to have more maintenance problems than the alternative irrigation methods. Furthermore, government policies and extension services as well as irrigation industry efforts appeared limited. It appeared that the technology would most likely be adopted where farmers have a reliable but limited (in volume) water supply. In some situations, the LCLH drip technology, and particularly the smaller (bucket) kits, did not appear to be appropriate and should not be promoted. For other conditions, recommendations were made for helping to overcome the problems identified in the study. The Rogers innovation-decision model was shown to lack sufficient consideration of external factors. A revised model was proposed to suit the conditions of small-scale irrigation technology adoption in less developed countries.