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Water harvesting lessons from Magana Flowers

August 2, 2017, Nairobi. When it rained for two days in the middle of sweltering February heat, Magana flowers Limited was able to collect enough water that was able to take care of its operations for fourteen days which saw its water reservoirs overflowing.

It is one of the many aspects of the flower farm’s elaborate water collection system that offers the country a lesson on water harvesting at a time when depressed rainfall has taken a toll on water availability.

Magana’s water collection and conservation model is being chaperoned by its CEO, Mr. Nicholas Ambanya who believes it is the little things that matter. “I am a huge fan of water harvesting and it has been my pleasure overseeing that at Magana we tap into any avenue we can to collect water. But while we can do everything to harvest water, it makes no sense if we misuse it, that explains why I am very strict on how water is used around here,” Mr. Ambanya said.

Such measures include use of mops to clean the packhouse as opposed to pouring water on the floor and scrubbing.

At the heart of this water collection scheme are three dams that cumulatively hold 240,000 cubic metres of water which is harvested from the rain through gutters installed in every greenhouse. The dams can comfortably supply the farm with water for four months even without rain or pumping from any other source.

The damming system includes utility dams which are the main reservoirs which feeds other dams. The main utility dam holds on average 36,000 cubic metres of water.

Once water is used in the greenhouses, through the irrigation system, the excess is recycled and mixed afresh with fertilizer ensuring no loss at any given time.

The collection system at Magana also has five functioning boreholes capable of producing 600 cubic meters per day from the nearest springs which form the source of Nairobi river. “Even though we have the water from the river, we endeavor to use that as the last resort.

Our primary focus is on harvesting as much water as we can from the rains and play our part as custodians of the river by conserving it, especially now when rainfall is sporadic,” added Mr. Ambanya.

To further tame wastage Magana monitors daily use of water through a computerized water system that is capable of identifying even minute leakages across the farm.

The flower farm comfortably manages to quench its operations and even share water with the surrounding community through a water drawing board scheme as part of its social responsibility. “We have an initiative where we have taps strategically located near the border with our neighbours and we allow them to draw water from these taps.

We believe in the sharing of resources with the local community and also know that water is vital for peaceful co-existence. It has been a smooth operation, with members of the community expressing satisfaction especially during these dry spells. The water we serve them is clean,” said Mr. Ambanya.

And as the company mulls expanding flower production area from the current 18 hectares to 25, it already has a plan to tap into every rooftop to collect water. “We want to ensure that even with the expansion, we do not struggle with water capacity. This means installing more gutters in every greenhouse we erect. Every drop of water to us means everything,” he added.

Such low cost yet effective and sustainable water sourcing and management scheme offers vital lessons to a country classified as water depressed by World Resource Institute where stable freshwater supplies are not guaranteed.

“We work with flowers that are water guzzlers but still we are able to easily grow them and have enough water to even share with our neighbours. The greatest lesson here is that it is possible to have ample supply of water if we only invested in harvesting it. And water collection and harvesting doesn’t need to be a laborious and expensive affair. If every roof in this country invested in tapping rain water we would have no need worrying about scarcity,” said Mr. Ambanya.

It is a gospel he holds dear to his heart, which has seen him institute collection and conservation measures in workplaces and even encouraged his peers to embrace. “I visit homes and hear them complain about lack of water despite having had rains. Simple harvesting techniques are lessons we have refused to learn, and they will cost us,” he added.

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