PanAfricare Blog

Building irrigation infrastructure in Turkana, Kenya


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For farmers in arid and semi-arid regions, agriculture is a daunting task. Farmers have to bear with harsh climatic conditions and dwindling water levels.

With changes in climate, water is becoming a scarcer resource. The short seasonal rains that used to sustain seasonal farms are gone leaving behind dry farms and food insecure communities.

PanAfricare’s IMPACT Program funded by the Bayer Fund has aggressively been building irrigation infrastructure in Turkana County to strengthen farmers’ resilience in the face of a prolonged drought. The Program has already rolled out several interventions to utilize surface and underground water.

The interventions include; sinking boreholes, establishing irrigation systems, canal construction, and donating water pumps to the farmers. All the interventions have been to build farmers’ resilience and make it possible to produce food even in the face of a prolonged drought.

Irrigation canals

Initiatives such as canal construction or rehabilitation have been proven to bring enough water to the farms to support sustainable agricultural production.

PanAfricare has supported farmers in several farms along River Turkwel to construct and  rehabilitate irrigation canals. The farms include Nadapal, Napool, Napak, Natuntun, and Natirae in Turkwel ward Turkana County. River Turkwel is one of the few permanent rivers in the arid County. Water from the river has provided a lifeline to the farms and communities living along it.

Some of the canals rehabilitated previously were functional  but with poor maintenance, the canal had been overtaken by bushes and was filled with sand.  The rehabilitation process that involved desilting process was required to revamp the canals.

With rehabilitation and construction of new canals farms such as Natirae back to life and in three months, Natirae registered its first harvest in years. Natuntun on the other hand saw massive farm expansion after a new canal was constructed. Farmers who had given up on farming due to lack of enough water returned and began working on their lands. Natuntun today boasts of being a key producer of maize, sorghum and vegetable in Turkwel.

Natirae is just one of many farms the Program supported to access water; the Program has also supported farmers rehabilitate and construct new canals in Nadapal, Natuntun and Napak that benefits over 1000 farmers.

In Napak, Natirae, and Natuntun, canal gates that farmers use to regulate the amount of water entering their farms were constructed with the canals.

Boreholes for farming

Irrigation canals are best suited for farms close to surface water points such as rivers, dams, or lakes. Some farms are far from these permanent water sources, yet they have big agricultural potential. In most cases these farms are rain-dependent and with the absence of rain, the farms are rendered unproductive.

To ensure these farms are productive even during the driest seasons,  PanAfricare has sunk boreholes and provided established infrastructure such as solar powered water pumping machines, solar panels, and water storage tanks.


The boreholes have transformed the farms from seasonal farms to farms that produce food throughout the year. Taking advantage of underground water can be a solution to water problems that farmers in dry areas experience. Boreholes also provide opportunities to modernize the farms for example; setting up of furrow irrigation systems. PanAfricare has supported farmers drill boreholes and build infrastructure in Kangirega, Kaekunyuk, Nakabosan, Lolupe, Nakoyo, Green Angels, Kaapus, Tiya and Nakitokirion sites.

To effectively utilize the water the Program has trained the farmers on furrow irrigation which is an efficient irrigation technology. Infrastructure such as piping system was build around this technology.


Building farm water infrastructure undoubtedly increases productivity. PanAfricare’s programs are designed to sustainably address malnutrition and food insecurity. We acknowledge the importance of water in agriculture, we remain committed to the goal of ensuring every farmer has access to enough water to continously produce food.