Irrigation proposals promise farmers more powers

Water, Sanitation and Irrigation PS Joseph Irungu
Sweeping changes are expected in the initiation, funding and management of irrigation schemes if proposed regulations are anything to go by.

The proposed changes place more powers over schemes in the hands of farmers who will be required to organise themselves. The Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation expects to have 1.2 million acres of land put under irrigation.

Some of the notable changes touch on specifications for setting up water storage for irrigation, a move that could deter proliferation of dams and water pans without proper planning.

This move is meant to operationalise the Irrigation Act 2019.

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Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu said the changes will ensure sustainability through local involvement.

He said: “One of the biggest contributory factors to lack of sustainability of irrigation schemes developed has been poor management of irrigation schemes, which has partly been attributed to weak farmer organisation.”

Prone to drought

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For instance, farmers seeking to harvest water for irrigation in areas prone to drought will be required to ensure the dam can collect water that will last at least three months.

“Any individual or entity intending to carry out or are carrying out irrigation where availability and reliability of water is not guaranteed shall implement water harvesting and storage measures capable of storing flood water sufficient to meet three months water demand,” the regulations state.

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This week, delegates from farmers, national and county governments met in Nairobi to agree upon rules that will govern the sector.

Irrigation Secretary Aboud Moeva said rain-fed agriculture is no longer sustainable and Kenya has to find ways of driving the agricultural sector.

“One of the ways is through water harvesting,” he said. 

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IrrigationJoseph IrunguIrrigation Act 2019