The effects of climate change are evident in Kenya. In 2016, there was very little rainfall. As a result, there were commercial farmers had to close their businesses and layoff their employees. Going forward, small holder farmers who used to rely on rainfall for irrigation must adapt their farming practices rather than continue with the practices handed down over generations. Without rainfall, there is water insecurity that leads to food insecurity.
The challenges are getting direr, especially when we consider the energy, food and water nexus as presented by Caroline Makenzi, a Renewable Energy Consultant with Climate Focus. The energy, food and water nexus is a very complicated, inextricably connected relationship among energy, food and water. A changes in one of the three will often have impact to one or both of the other two. Using hydro power as an example, water is needed to grow food and create energy (hydro systems). Energy is used to move and treat water, produce food and mechanize systems. Food is used to create energy (biomass).
It is estimated that by 2030, there will be a 50% increase in food demand, 30% increase in water demand, and 50% increase in energy demand. This demonstrates a strong correlation between energy demand and the demand for food and water. With the energy, food and water nexus in mind, Kenya and the world will need creative solutions as the global population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050 requiring a 60% increase in food production which will impact energy and water demand. Besides population growth, rapid urbanization and economic development also drive the demand for energy, food & water.
Mrs. Makenzi presented the energy, food & water nexus to allow 2017 Women in Energy Awards and Conference participants an opportunity to grasp the interlocked issues we face with respect to food security, energy security and water security and as a means to spark new solutions that address the interconnected relationship, at the county, national and global levels, and not solely from the energy perspective.
Kenya is increasingly vulnerable to drought and unpredictable weather patterns resulting from climate change. On yearly trips to ‘ushago,’ rural homes, people remark on the intensity with which their home regions are drying. Energy smart agricultural system are an approach for transforming and re-orienting agricultural development under the new realities of climate. The goals of energy smart and climate smart agriculture are to increase productivity, enhance resilience, and eliminate or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In Kenya, agriculture accounts for 26% of the gross domestic product GDP and employs 70% of the rural poor. Fifty percent of Kenya’s agricultural activities are done by women and children. Globally, agriculture depends on fossil fuels, whose pricing is volatile and increasing whereas the cost of renewable energy is decreasing. Solar panels and storage are increasingly more affordable. The cost per watts of installed power is decreasing. Energy smart agricultural systems improve energy efficiency, increase the use and production of renewable energy, which leads to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improved productivity, improved water efficiency and reduction of post-harvest losses and energy costs.
At the county level, Kenya has 5 million plus small holder farmers with 2-4 acres of land. Small holder farmers can join together, form a co-operative and produce one specific crop either for export or domestic sale. Post-harvest losses in themselves require energy and are one of the farmers’ biggest concerns. Using energy smart and climate smart agricultural systems, commercial and small holder farmers can use energy to add value to produce and farm products to extend the shelf life for export for transport to other counties or international export.
The Government of Kenya supports energy efficiency and renewable energy agriculture through the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Strategy 2017-2026, Kenya Youth in Agribusiness for 2017-2021, energy efficiency and conservation regulations and renewable energy regulations through the Energy Regulatory Commission and Ministry of Energy. Kenya also partners with the USAID and the World Bank to promote renewable energy and climate smart agriculture.
Other climate smart technologies and interventions have been implemented in production systems. They use sensors to monitor the grain drying process in the greenhouses and storage. There are many opportunities for energy smart renewable interventions and technologies in the agriculture sector.
Solutions that business owners can provide value chains in tea, flower, dairy and fresh produce can include:
- Solar water pumping
- Embedded power systems for storage and harvest facilities such as pack houses and grading halls (for exports) where the energy feeds are slightly below the proper load using any form of energy
- Biogas systems that can run an engine, although efficiencies can be low
- Briquettes for water heating
- Solar powered dryers
- Increasing in popularity for small holder farmer groups given their high post-harvest and the high demand for dried fruit in Europe. For example, mangoes are usually in season for five months. The oversupply can be dried for export.
- Cogeneration using agricultural waste to heat water that can be used for the drying process or other purposes within the facility
- Replacement of wood with high calorific briquettes
- Sugar farms give their waste for free as a means of waste management
- Cogeneration using carbon-neutral clean biomass as opposed to nuclear technology
- Biofuels to run trucks and generators – convert waste into biofuels to run their own companies rather than using the pumps
- Biogas for electricity generation
- Smart cooling systems – milk chillers to transport milk outside the county or extend the shelf life of milk
Solar powered chillers have not yet entered the Kenyan market perhaps for lack of awareness
Kenya Youth in Agribusiness Strategy of 2017-2026
Caroline Makenzi is a Renewable Energy Consultant with Climate Focus. She talked about the Kenya Youth in Agribusiness Strategy at the 2nd Women in Energy Awards and Conference. She began by describing the average Kenyan farmer. The average Kenyan farmer is 60 years old and typically takes up the profession past the age of 40, when he or she inherits the farm land. To entice Kenya’s youth to begin farming in their 20s and the 30s, Kenya has implemented the Kenya Youth in Agribusiness Strategy to simultaneously address the food security and youth unemployment.
In counties where agriculture is the main economic activity, women can reduce their costs by investing in solar water pumping which offers many advantages. It reduces reliance on rain-fed agriculture, improves resilience to climate change, and reduces energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
With respect to the approximately 5,000 small holder farmers with 2-4 acres of land, solar water pumping at the community level of small groups can free up resources and allow them to take on other productive endeavors. Given that the majority of small holder farmers are women, solar water pumping presents a great opportunity to get involved in energy use management at the county level.
In commercial farms, water pumping costs contribute 30%-60% of energy costs. Caroline Makenzi has undertaken 45 feasibility studies for flower farms in Kenya where she found that water pumping and refrigeration account for 90% of energy costs for commercial farms. Solar water pumping can reduce energy costs.