Posted by: Wasrag | March 21, 2012

Drip Irrigation for Vegetable Gardens Adds To Food Security

Tessa Bell, Rotary Club of Belleville, Ontario, Canada

Whether it is a small backyard in South Africa or a remote high school in Lesotho; in the dry north of Cameroon or at a school near the city dump in Guatemala City, drip irrigation has been shown to improve lives one drop of water at a time.Growing vegetables using drip irrigation can be done with a bucket kit or with a pressurized system.  Using 16mm round pipe and external emitters both systems supply water directly to the base of the plant so that every drop is absorbed by the roots and little is lost to evaporation.

Women's support group

In late September 2009 I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa.  Together with Chris Skellenger, a colleague from Michigan, we travelled to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.  Lesotho has the third highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the world, life expectancy is 36 – 40 years and there are over 200,000 orphans in a population of 1.8 million.  Most families in Lesotho have a small vegetable garden but like so much of the third world water is not always easily available.   With funding from both Chris’ NGO 11 Oaks and my Rotary Club in Belleville we spent the next five weeks travelling the length and breadth of the country installing demonstration drip irrigation gardens at high schools, hospitals, community centers and for women’s support groups and AIDS orphans.When Terry Umbach from the Sunshine Coast-Sechelt Club learned of our work in Lesotho he was encouraged to look at drip irrigation for his Ndandini project in Kenya.  Their first greenhouse, purchased from Amiran in Kenya, was installed at the Ndandini Primary School and uses drip irrigation to grow tomatoes.  Now that their well is operational they have purchased a second greenhouse and will shortly be starting to grow tomatoes here as well.

Tomato plants in greenhouse Ndandini

With a Rotary Foundation Humanitarian Global Grant our club has a project underway building a biolatrine at St. George’s Primary School in Kapseret, Kenya.  The school already has a drilled well which was funded by Montreal-Lakeshore Rotary. The well provides water for the school and an extensive vegetable garden which utilizes a drip irrigation system. This not only provides fresh vegetables for the students but enough to send some home to their families enabling the children to stay in school instead of being sent out to work to support the family.

As with any project it is essential to find out if the technology will be accepted by the community it is being offered to.  Will they adopt and benefit from it.  Can the parts be sourced locally and are they affordable.  Who will take a leadership role in the community and demonstrate to others how to use and maintain the system.  When everything comes together and vegetables flourish the smiles say it all.




  1. Thank you Tessa for all you and your Belleville (Ontario Canada) RC do for water projects. Thanks too for mentioning the Ndandini Water Projects (which we are so happy to have your RC partnering in). We have over 30 Rotary Clubs who have partnered with us, as well as many non-Rotarian individuals to provide some $200,000 in donations to change the lives of over 3000 villagers in Ndandini.

    “Starting with water” we have drilled a well, installed drip-irrigation greenhouses, provided solar lighting for schools as well as internet-enabled computers, secondary school scholarships and now a tractor and water bowser to deliver water from the Rotary-provided well to water tanks recently installed by Rotary at 6 schools.

    We thank everyone who has helped.

    See for more information about our water-related projects in Eastern Kenya and if you have any questions email me at .

    Terry Umbach
    RC Sunshine Coast-Sechelt BC Canada

  2. is involved with Rotary to establish community gardens , providing training , mentorship and marketing. Our Rotary club of Mt Edgecombe near Durban South Africa would be pleased to partner with like-minded Rotarians overseas to provide the drip irrigation systems yo are illustrating above. Please respond to

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