The sun has shone, the clouds have been few and it has been hot today - and it hasn't rained This would be great if I was working on my tan or suffering from a sunshine deficiency. It's not such good news for our crops, which are at a critical point of growth and need both sunshine and rain. Fortunately there is a solution to this problem - bucket irrigation!
Bucket irrigation is watering at it's most basic. In an ideal world we would have set up some kind of drip irrigation system for times of no rain. We will be able to do this next January once our new classrooms have been built and we have water storage tanks on the end of them. For now we are having to resort to exploiting our young workforce - the pupils in the school. They don't seem to mind and so set to work carrying 10 litre buckets of water, mostly on their heads. It's amazing how much water even the younger pupils can carry.
The walk from the water tank to the field is about 400 metres and the children have to make a number of trips - we are hand watering 18 6 metre by 6 metre plots, 250 tree seedlings and our vegetable garden containing kale and onions. The plan is to become self sufficient in basic food crops, (beans, maize, potatoes, tomatoes, onions etc), and to make the most of the land that we have. So far the results are encouraging. Mary, (our manager), is predicting a maize harvest at the end of November so I should, I hope, get to be part of the harvest crew as well as the watering crew.
Our irrigation method has a serious underlying principle. We have a borehole on our land, so we can, if all else fails, crank up the generator and irrigate the crops with water from a depth of about 90 metres. This is not an option for our neighbours, so it seems like cheating. I have a theory that we should be able to collect enough rain water from the roofs of our buildings to keep the crops watered during the dry spells that our part of Kenya suffers from. When it rains it throws it down so we are able to collect a lot of water in our tanks. Every roof is put to use in this way. So much water gets wasted because people don't have good roof harvesting systems. We aim to farm sustainably, so don't want to become reliant on borehole water for irrigation. Having been part of the bucket brigade today I am keeping up my confidence in our strategy. The water will last longer on the plots that we have covered in God's Blanket, (mulch). Being people of faith we will also pray for rain!
Tomorrow is a big day for our older pupils in Classes 7 and8 as they will be sitting zonal mock exams. This smacks of the UK disease of school performance tables - the schools in our zone are very competitive. There seems to be an element of trust lacking in the exam process - our headteacher Mr Dedans told me that our teachers will have to travel to other schools in the zone to invigilate and we will have teachers from other schools doing the same for us. It should be an interesting couple of days!