NIA kicks off plans to revive Lower Kuja Irrigation Scheme

Lower Kuja Irrigation scheme. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

The National Irrigation Authority (NIA) has embarked on plans to revive the multi-billion shilling Lower Kuja Irrigation scheme.

NIA has set aside Sh28 million to compensate families affected by the Sh54 billion project by end of June.

Works at the scheme stalled after more than 40 court cases were filed against the Authority over compensation.

In a joint press briefing at Migori Governor Ochilo Ayacko’s office in Migori town, NIA chairman Gilbert Maluki and the governor committed to revive the project saying that the compensation row was a major setback for the scheme.

Eng Maluki regretted that the uptake and operationalisation of the scheme has not been fully utilised due to the compensation row.

“Once we are done with the compensation, all things will fall in place,” he said.

The NIA chairman urged residents to take farming seriously saying that in collaboration with the county government, the Authority would create infrastructure, the technical know-how and support in terms of agronomists.

Maluki assured farmers at the irrigation scheme that a contractor would be on the ground by June to finalise pending projects including works that would allow water to flow to the rice farms.

“NIA has already appropriated about Sh28 million for compensation. The money will be used to compensate the farmers who were not compensated previously,” he said.

Governor Ayacko assured residents that plans are underway to resolve the compensation issue and they have even petitioned President William Ruto over the matter.

The governor said together with NIA, they are working to revive the Lower Kuja Irrigation Scheme.

“The scheme was designed and it was agreed that the affected families be compensated. Unfortunately, there was no adequate compensation and some of them felt aggrieved, went to court and litigation has stalled the project. Our joy is in its implementation,” he said.

Ayacko who thanked NIA for giving the project a practical approach said it would need additional funding for civil works and infrastructure.

The irrigation scheme when fully revived will have 19,000 acres under rice farming. Currently, the scheme only has 6,000 acres under rice farming, which is partly active.

“It should be able to employ over 250,000 Kenyans and generate a gross revenue of Sh5 billion for the county government every year. That kind of money can be transformational,” Governor Ayacko said.

Lower Kuja Irrigation Scheme farmers group chairman Okeyo Oremo said only 80 per cent of families affected by the project received compensation.

“It was difficult for us to explain to farmers why some people were compensated and the rest were not,” he said.