Webinar: Big Bets for Kenyan Food Security in a Time of COVID-19

Jun 15, 2020 | All, Data & Tech Acceleration, Farmer Capability & Smart Farming, News and Events, Women & Youth

Update: Thanks to everyone who joined us for the webinar, and a special thanks for our panelists for their participation! The following webinar content is available here:


We are excited to invite you to the launch of our Irrigation Policy Paper and corresponding Webinar: 

Big Bets for Kenyan Food Security in the Time of COVID: Focus on Irrigation, Financial Services & Farmer Engagement.

DATE: Thursday, June 25th 2020

TIME: 13:00 (GMT+1) / 15:00 (EAT)

LOCATIONZoom link available upon registration


  • Introduction of the Irrigation Policy paper through an expert presentation
  • Lively and engaging discussion with key actors and experts on “Big Bets” for food security around irrigation, financial services, and smallholder engagement in a time of COVID-19
  • Interactive Q&A session with the audience
  • Official launch & release of the paper to the audience


  • Dr. Hamadi Iddi Boga: Principal Secretary of the State Department for Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture
  • Vinay Vutukuru: Head of Agriculture Portfolio for World Bank Kenya
  • Samir Ibrahim: CEO of SunCulture 
  • Lauren Hendricks: CEO of Equity Group Foundation International
  • Martha Haile: Africa VP for WeFarm


The COVID-19 pandemic and locust invasion into Kenya poses a grave threat to the country’s food security. The World Bank estimates Kenya’s agricultural losses are $1.5 billion from the locust invasion. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) estimates that already, 250 million people in Africa are without food. Even before this double threat, Kenya still faced a 40% annual chance of drought each year. We need big bets on proven agricultural technology to boost productivity and avoid a food security crisis in 2020. This Mercy Corps AgriFin Webinar will dive into a range of big bets, with a lead focus on irrigation.

Irrigation & Solar Water Pumps as a Big Bet

Today, just 3% of Kenya’s arable land is irrigated, while remaining lands rely on increasingly unpredictable rainfall. Smallholder farmers produce the lion’s share of Kenya’s food (78%), but most irrigation is concentrated on large commercial farms. The Government of Kenya aims to reach 1.2 million irrigated acres by 2022, but the most recent data suggests we are at less than half that figure.

Evidence shows that irrigation systems and solar-powered water pumps can increase farmers’ production between 2 and 4 times, and their income between 2 and 6 times. They also cost farmers less compared to traditional diesel pumps and ensure farmers are able to cultivate even if rains fail.



Which smart interventions are best placed to address the significant immediate and long-term disruptions farmers are facing given COVID, environmental threats, and climatic variability? How can we design interventions that actively build resilience, whilst also addressing immediate threats to food security? What role can Solar Water Pumps play in achieving Kenya’s Big Four agenda?

AgriFin has teamed with Dalberg to understand impacts and acceleration pathways for the adoption of solar water pumps on Kenya’s agricultural sector. Affordability, financing, limited awareness, and unreliable water access are critical barriers to the uptake of solar irrigation technologies in Kenya. If significant interventions were developed and launched to address each one of these constraints, together, we project that 1.7 million farmers could increase their daily income by an average of 1.8 times in the next ten years.