- Open Access
Economic value of water harvesting for climate-smart adaptation in semi-arid Ijara Garissa, Kenya
© The Author(s) 2017
- Received: 7 March 2016
- Accepted: 6 March 2017
- Published: 27 March 2017
The semi-arid Ijara experienced erratic and declining rainfall whereas temperature increased, triggering extreme weather events shocks. Given the shocks that outwitted traditional coping mechanisms, pastoralists spontaneously took to water harvesting pans as adaptation strategy. The spontaneity translated into unclear costs benefits which the study clarified by isolating them for analysis and also measured the strategy’s viability. The design used was costs-benefit-analysis, complemented by the regional financial market-driven 15% discounting rates. Also co-ordinated regional downscaling experiment models were used to ascertain climate performance and projection. Household questionnaire was administered to 240 calculated from 9000 farmer population.
Annual water pan cash flow netted present value US$ 5393 and 57% pastoralists had embraced agro-pastoralism. Land size inadequacy and the communal tenure upset 86.26% users and 53.08% lacked requisite skills. Other challenges were feed deficit at 30.41%, and diseases 20.41% in that order. Benefits from harvesting water exceeded costs, making the investment viable for adaptation.
Considering the limited adaptation capacities, disease control and feed deficit costs, policies need to focus on formulating climate-smart water harvesting technologies, improve feed to include revitalizing traditional grazing management practices. Other pertinent investment opportunities include strategic value-chain linkages and infrastructure as well enriched soil stabilization using multi-benefits crops and generation and consistent use of weather data.
- Water harvesting pan
- Costs benefits
- Net present value
Impacts of climate change and variability affect agricultural productivity which depends directly on climatic conditions hence increasing adaptation costs (Rosenzweig et al. 2008; Skiba et al. 2012; European Union 2014; IPCC 2014). At a warming rate exceeding 3 °C, virtually all of the present maize, millet, and sorghum farmlands in sub-Sahara African countries such as Kenya could become unviable, thereby escalating economic costs and uncertainty (Schaeffer et al. 2014). The risks expose the ASALs in the region to the challenge of exponential costs occasioned by unreliable, highly variable, and scarce rainfall for their livestock and crop production (Tol et al. 1998; Bhatt et al. 2006; Cooper et al. 2012). Apart from high costs of production, temperature for instance, affect the cropping pattern and type of livestock kept whereas rainfall amount, distribution, reliability and intensity determine the crops grown, livestock kept and soil treatment required (Jaetzold and Schmidt 1983; Obanyi et al. 2009). Consequently, when climate change variability affects temperature, rainfall, land, energy and wind, it ravages the very core of economic productivity benefits and increases costs of adaptation astronomically. However, much as the impacts are ravaging, they provide opportunities from returns arising from implementation of climate-smart adaptation strategies, which benefits traditional coping could not provide.
The semi-arid Ijara falls within the 95,000–120,000 km2 water catchment that is drained by the 1000 km long River Tana that arises from Aberdare Ranges in central Kenya. The river essentially defines the ecosystem in which about a million people i.e. pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and fisher-folk depend on its flooding regime for their livelihoods. However, increasingly uncertainty about the river’s flooding regime affected both crop and livestock production, necessitating sustainable rain water harvesting.
Water harvesting adaptation strategy
Rain water harvesting and storage capacity remains extremely low in Kenya even though the country is water-stressed with per capita availability of 647 m3, which is less than the UN-recommended 1000 m per capita (Republic of Kenya 2010). Water harvesting is the collection of runoff instead of it being left to cause erosion for productive purposes that reduce costs. In the semi-arid drought-prone areas where it is widely practised through water pans, water harvesting doubles as a direct productive form of soil and water conservation. Consequently, both yields and reliability of production can be significantly improved with this method. Water harvesting techniques have been used for millennia for domestic, agricultural, pastoral, and commercial water needs. In Kenya, development projects by county government, NGOs, national and international organizations, state ministries, and other agencies increasingly look into rain water harvesting as a decentralized solution to Kenya’s water needs (Black et al. 2012).
In Ijara, water sources are either natural or manmade. Natural sources are River Tana, laghas and Lakes Jerrei and Hadi within Boni forest. Man-made sources are mainly dug water harvesting pans and shallow wells. In the larger Ijara sub-county, there are twenty water pans spread in Bothai, Handaro, Kotile and Sangole-Ijara whose individual capacities range between 10 and 30 m3. But the economic study purposely selected Handaro dam based on the numerous livestock and crop agricultural activity that it supports. Also it is the one dam whose construction factored in both crop and livestock whereas other water pans in the area focused on livestock. Water pans serve the major proportion of the sub-county and are key influencers on population distribution, schools, health facilities and administration posts mainly as check against insecurity (GoK 2008). Although River Tana avails water at source to Ijara, it does not currently legally fall under the sub-county. This illegality precipitates occasional pastoralist-farmer-livestock conflicts. Other negative environmental impacts as a result of water resources utilization include ecosystem degradation as a result of unplanned watering point, degradation of water pans due to poor or lack of a management system, underutilization of lakes Jerrei and Hadi, dismal coverage by portable water and siltation. Lack of the management has resulted in under-utilization of the rather endowed pasture area, while areas in the sub-county with proliferation of water points are degraded due to over-use (IUCN 2014).
Study questions and objectives were informed partly by data collated from stakeholder registers at the ministries of agriculture and livestock in Ijara which indicated 9000 farmers were active in both crop agriculture and livestock. The objectives were to asses’ costs benefits, viability for water harvesting adaptation and whether benefits exceeded costs. A rapid vulnerability assessment was done up-front to determine what crop and livestock strategies were used. From the review it was clear that the population depended on the water pan for domestic, agriculture and livestock use. Water pans in Ijara are strategically positioned to hold-back surface run off, contain underground water and stabilize soils in situ and downstream. Also, the water facilities offer a much-needed source of water to livestock, wildlife, domestic use and crop agriculture. However, neither the costs of implementing the pans nor the benefits gained from the use were clear; given the strategies were spontaneously undertaken which necessitated the economic analysis, so as to inform planning, and policy framework. The analysis focused on Handaro water pan due to the combination of livestock and agriculture activities that took place around it as was anticipated at the planning stage.
Summary climate related impacts factors as felt in Ijara
Increased rainfall intensity
Sporadic but slightly increased rainfall
Prolonged drought incidences after El-nino
Floods/sea water intrusion inland
Unpredictable wind direction
Biological and physical attributes
Temperature trend in Ijara
The total population in Ijara sub-county is 92,663 comprising of 50,165 male and 42,498 female. The area’s population growth rate is 3.7% (KNBS 2012) while poverty index stood at 63% with over 90% depending on pastoralism (GoK 2005). There are 13,180 households with an average size of 6 members. The number of female headed households is 4006 and children headed households 572 (Ijara District Strategic Plan 2005–2010). Approximately 640 people are disabled while about 1246 children need special attention. The sources of income in the sub-county are as follows; 60% (agriculture, mainly livestock); 20% (rural self-employment); and 15% (wage employment) (GoK 2009). The key drivers of poverty in the sub-county include poor governance and weak institutions; high population growth rate; high illiteracy levels; limited access to capital and markets; poor infrastructure; ecosystem degradation; inter-clan-ethnic conflicts; cyclic complex disasters primarily drought and floods; and over-reliance on livestock (Ijara District Strategic Plan 2005–2010).
The study design was survey via purposeful sampling to identify focus groups and expert key informants for in-depth investigation given both categories were especially informative on costs benefits of water harvesting adaptation in use (Neuman 1997; Creswell 2014). For purposes of generalization inferential statistics were used to make deductions and generalizations about the whole population. The results were presented in form of tables, and figures. The quantitative and qualitative interview tools were handy in interrogating costs and benefits of water pan. Cost benefit analysis was used to compare the present value of a stream of benefits to a stream of costs. These values were discounted to calculate the present value of future costs and benefits. Adaptation costs quantified were those on planning, land preparation, fencing, seeding and labour, whereas adaptation benefits were water for domestic and livestock use, incomes from sale of agricultural products around Handaro water pan and time saved from trekking far for water which is invested in other economic pursuits.
Sample size and sampling
Took the value of the Chi square (X2) at degrees of freedom = 1 at the desired confidence interval of 0.10 which when looked up at the Chi square distribution table yields 2.71.
In addition N was considered; being the population under study, that is 9000 households actively engaged in farming.
Took the population proportion to be 0.50.
The degree of accuracy expressed as a proportion, was calculated as 0.00523. Given the above values, the following was arrived at:
Of the 13,180 households in Ijara; only 9000 actively engage in either livestock or crop farming. Given the sample population is 9000, sample size n = 240 households, for the selected sites in Handaro, Ijara and Bothai were purposefully drawn assigning 80 households per site. Random sampling was then applied to select the 80 households from total population of each of the three sites.
Data instrumentation, analysis and presentation
Cash flow was used as a measure of the balance between revenues and costs, with appropriate accounting for depreciation and liabilities. The discount rate used was 15% being the prevailing interest rate in the financial markets which rates decline over time (Myers and Allen 2005);
Net present value (NPV) tool was used being the sum of revenues and costs over time, based on an assumed discount rate, referenced to the present (the first year);
Payback period factored in was 5–10 years being the period in which it is expected that the cash inflows will outgrow the recurrent costs and provide desirable returns for the investment.
Vulnerability, risk assessment and identification of strategies
At the pre-field phase of the study rapid household vulnerability assessment was conducted followed by adaptation options selection. Farmers in the three project sites concurred on the following; (1) rainfall had declined and become more erratic both in intensity and spatial (2) temperature was on positive trend, frequent and prolonged droughts threatened agriculture livestock productivity (3) wind direction was increasingly unpredictable and affected rainfall distribution or its failure altogether (Table 1). Identification of water harvesting pans, as adaptation option was finalized in a participatory manner based on the vulnerability assessment results. Other considerations included the economic study timelines, viability of the identified option particularly costs and benefits.
Economic analysis of water pan adaptation strategy
Water pans in Ijara serve the major proportion of the sub-county and are key influencers on population distribution, schools, health facilities and administration posts (GoK 2008). Only 15% of the total population has portable water (Ijara district strategic development plan 2002–2008). Besides River Tana, Lakes Jerrei and Hadhi, Ijara has 20 water pans. Water availability tackles farmer-pastoralist conflicts which in turn curtails ecosystem degradation due to unplanned watering points. Other water challenges include, siltation, degradation of water pans resultant to poor management (GOK 2008). The water pan presented impacts costs to include acquisition of land, steep capital outlay, attracting informal settlement around it and possible emissions from the many livestock and wild game that congregate around it daily. These are some of the benefits and costs that the study assessed to ascertain economic viability of the adaptation strategies in use. Although water needs in Ijara are acute specifically for livestock, domestic and crop farming, the study explored broader economic water values as use values are inter-linked. The values were generally classified as use and non-use values. Within use values, there were direct (consumptive e.g. irrigation) or (non-consumptive e.g. water for aesthetic). Non-use values (existence, bequest, philanthropic) were of ethical concerns and altruistic preferences stemming from self-interest and non-direct use values (Kerry et al. 2004). Of greater interest in Ijara was consumptive water use value given its scarcity and high demand for livestock, domestic and subsistence crop farming. Currently that demand is met by 20 water pans constructed over the years largely through external aid complemented by labour and goodwill from local community. The study focused on Handaro water pan constructed in 2009 by the Ministry of Agriculture through NALEP programme with Handaro community contributing labour, but remained largely unclear about the costs of implementing the pan and benefits that accrued thereof.
Handaro water pan capacities
Domestic, livestock and irrigation
Estimated evaporation loss
Estimated seepage loss
Required storage capacity of Handaro Pan
Challenges encountered before water pan
Attacks from wild animals
Shortage of food
Water shortage stress
Wasted time trekking for water
These constraints are of concern particularly in the face of prediction of higher temperature of 4 °C by 2100 (IPCC 2007). Adapting to the warmer climate through implementation of strategies such as Handaro water pans is costly but adapting is imperative as costs of not doing it will be much more. What these costs mean for ASALs such as Ijara is that adaptation is a must and must be done now, approaching it via tackling roots of poverty through development projects which are to be done differently, not business as usual way. In this resilience enhancing interventions land is a central factor of production and maximizing land use will catalyst poverty reduction as well as support desired adaptation, barring stringent tenure system. As an ASAL, land in Ijara is communally owned and governed by customary land law that accords rights to every community member but lacks incentives and sanctions for efficient utilization and management (GoK 2004). All the households reported that water pans were constructed in their areas as a response to adverse effects of climate change on their lives and livestock. However, the number of water pans differed in that some areas had only one water pans while others more. Out of the total number of household 98.3% were aware that ownership rested with the community. The high rate of awareness portended well for sustainability given water pans requires regular management to include periodic de-siltation.
As for Water pan excavation 92% household were aware that it was by mechanical means and only complemented by 4% manual excavation. Ninety-five percent of the households appreciated that water pan costs of maintenance were firmly in the hands of respective community. On Water pan excavation 92% households were aware that it was by mechanical means and only complemented by 4% manual excavation. Ninety-five percent of the households appreciated that water pan costs of maintenance were firmly in the hands of respective community. Up to 84% local communities appreciated that that if the water pans were not maintained, they would remain useful only for 1 year. This result indication is critical as it does flash grave consequences in the event of non-maintenance as is the case for most water pans in Ijara sub-county. The study focused on Handaro water pan mainly because of current usability and potential to support continued adaptation. It was excavated by Ministry of Agriculture through NALEP program in 2009.
Key socio-economic benefit from water pan was the increase in cattle per household at the rate of 3 heads after water pan was available; the number of sheep rose by 4 heads while goats increased by 5 heads. The increase represents increased incomes in livestock which is welcome input from water pan strategy.
Costs and benefits of Handaro water pan use
Willingness to pay for water
Further, US$18083 was the total sum respondents would be willing to pay for the same volume of water if they were to purchase it in terms of jerry cans to irrigate their crops, water their animals and for household consumption. The sum total of such expenditure yielded monetary benefits derived from the use of the water pan. This was the response derived from the direct question put to the respondents in terms of how much they would pay (Table 4) in which 78.26% were willing to pay.
Additionally, the water pan generated monetary benefits drawn from household savings from labour, sales of crops around water pan, domestic water use and income from other economic activities through time saved.
Water use on irrigation
The cash flow of costs and benefits
The following are the Water pan costs and benefits for Handaro water pan mechanically excavated with capacity 30,000 m3. The 5–10 year period is the interlude in which the water pan can last under good maintenance in order to supply the same level of economic benefits. The water pan can last for twenty years under good maintenance in order to supply the same level of economic benefits. The analysis considered the cash flows for a ten year period applying the NPV formulae discussed earlier: Net present value of cash flow, investment decision being if NPV ≥ 0 then the adaptation is economically feasible. The net present value from the investment was US$5393, which being greater than zero, meant water pan as adaptation strategy was economically viable.
Economic impact of water pan on crop production
Viability of the strategies for adaptation
With cash flow per year at US$5393 the study clarified that benefits from the water harvesting strategy exceeded costs incurred. The benefits from the asset included livestock value improvement, time wasted previously trekking in search of water was saved to engage other income generating activities. Additionally, the pan water was used for irrigation and supported pasture growth. Other benefits that outwitted costs were environmental benefits to include micro-climate, carbon sink, cropping whose co-benefits include green fertilisers, crop residue, manure, green cover and soil enrichment.
The study indicated that implementing water pan, effectively managed costs arising from extreme weather events, drought in particular. For long drought and floods seemed natural to life in Ijara, like other ASALs of Kenya as attested to by the five devastating droughts in the last decade; 2001, 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2011 and major floods in 2006 and 2010 (Fitzgibbon 2012). These extreme weather events dealt significant blow to the economy as was the case with the 1998/99 El Nino floods that stagnated ASAL economy. Given the persistence of the extreme events, economic costs of the impacts on market and non-market sectors will be a disconcerting 3% of Kenya’s GDP per annum by 2030 with potential to rise to above 5% of GDP per year by 2050 (SEI 2009). And yet managing drought is an exorbitant venture as indicated by government’s expenditure of over USD 10.5 million on food relief excluding contribution from development partners. Other expenditure on the same around same time was UN and GoK joint appeal in May 2000, USD 121,029,702; and an additional USD 122,650,146 spent in February 2001 (GoK 2004). Key among adaptation measures instinctively put up then to bear the blunt of these shocks were water harvesting pans, such as Handaro which was found viable investment in the study.
Number of livestock kept before and after pan
Livestock before and after pan
Std. error mean
Cattle before pan
Cattle after pan
Sheep before pan
Sheep after pan
Goat before pan
Goat after pan
Camel before pan
Camel after pan
JM developed the concept, carried out the field data collection and data analysis, and drafted the manuscript. JK and EK made comments on the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Authors wish to acknowledge Director General KALRO, IDRC for financial support under Agricultural Productivity and Climate Change in the Arid and Semi-Arid Kenya Project, KALRO Garissa for logistical support.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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