Food shortage: Floods sweep away hope of bumper harvest

Maize crops destroyed by floods at Perkerra Irrigation scheme in Marigat, Baringo County after River Perkerra broke its banks flooding into the farms on April 7, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The country is staring at a serious food shortage following heavy rains that have left farmers counting losses. 

Farmers who had invested millions of shillings in their farms have been left with open fields after their crop was washed away or submerged by the floods. 

The impact has been felt in parts of Trans Nzoia county, where a section of maize farmers have expressed fears of reduced yields at the end of the season due to heavy rains. 

 “The rains have been relentless and have washed away the fertiliser we applied, leaving our crops malnourished. The heavy downpour is not only leaching vital nutrients but also rendering weed control difficult,” said Fredrick Rono, a farmer in Kiminini constituency. 

 The situation is particularly dire for farmers residing near the Nzoia River. Spillovers have submerged some farm fields, wiping out maize crops. 

 “We have lost everything.  A Sh10,000 relief similar to what other flood victims received would be a lifesaver from the government,” said Rono. 

Paul Nzamba, another farmer in Trans Nzoia, said they might be prompted to apply more fertiliser rations to achieve good yields due to the heavy rains, which will mean more spending. 

Tom Nyagechanga, the Kenya National Farmers Federation (Kenaff), commodity representative at the Trans Nzoia branch said heavy rains will prevent most farmers from top-dressing their crop, hence affecting crop development. 

Samuel Gachemu, another farmer, said the destruction caused by the floods was massive, and farmers encountered huge losses. 

Dickson Lekesio, the chairperson of Murda Cooperative Farmers, said all crops, including watermelon, tomatoes, butternut, pawpaw, and other vegetables supplied to other counties, including Kisii, Kericho Nakuru, and Nairobi counties were swept away. 

Massive erosion

Murda Irrigation Scheme Farmers Secretary Alvine Lenaiweti said whatever they are experiencing now has never been seen before.

In a normal year, he says, they usually produce a maximum of 600 tonnes of seed maize, which is packaged and distributed for sale to farmers. 

The Sandai irrigation scheme was also affected by the floods. 

Perkerra irrigation scheme manager Daniel Waweru said flooding of the scheme happened on the night of May 3 when River Waseges broke its banks. 

He said two head works, for Kamaech and Sandai intake, were swept away and severely damaged. Massive erosion, he said, happened on the river banks around the intakes. A footbridge connecting the Sandai irrigation scheme and Kamaech was also swept away. 

In West Pokot, Simeon Peyoy, a farmer, is a dejected man after raging floods carried away 300 sheep from his farm, a loss estimated to be over Sh3 million. 

 As he surveys the scene, memories of his hard work and dedication to his flock hit him hard. 

The sheep was his sole source of income, and the venture was a testament to his resilience and determination in the pastoral region. 

The devastating incident has cast a shadow of sorrow over the region, highlighting the relentless challenges faced by farmers in the face of natural disasters. 

Floods in the region also caused transport disruptions along the Kitale-Kapenguria-Lodwar highway, leaving travelers stranded and businesses paralysed, leading to huge losses. 

 A section of the road between Lous Market and Kambi Karaya was washed away, cutting off transport. The highway is the only route to access Turkana County and South Sudan. 

 Florence Manyonge, a teacher in Turkana, shared her ordeal, highlighting the desperate need for food and provisions among stranded travelers and their families. 

The dire situation elicited frustrations on drivers like Dennis Omoi, who have relied on the highway for over 20 years to make a living. 

Philemon Kipkoech, the KeNHA North Rift Region Regional Director, assured the public of quick efforts to restore transport. 

Counting losses

Some companies in the North Rift and South Rift supplying farmers with seeds and seedlings are also counting losses. 

This is even as the ongoing rains continue to pound parts of the country, with the Maai Mahiu area of Naivasha emerging as one of the regions hardest hit by the floods. 

With over 60 lives lost, 37 missing, scores injured, and property worth millions of shillings damaged, the town has become the talk of the country even as the rains continued raising fears of more losses. 

On April 29, a seasonal dam in Old Kijabe burst, sweeping away families, homes, and tens of livestock, while infrastructure worth millions of shillings was washed away.

The gushing waters swept away water systems and sections of the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu and Mai Mahiu-Narok roads, and power lines were brought down. 

The busy Mai Mahiu-Kijabe road, which connects area residents to the Kijabe Mission Hospital, was cut off, affecting the supply of medical supplies and other critical equipment. 

Two weeks after the incident, families and institutions are still counting the losses, with Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara noting that the losses could run into billions of shillings. 

Major roads in the area were cut off by the torrential rains and would require billions of shillings to repair them. 

 “One cannot access Kijabe Hospital from Mai Mahiu town after the only bridge and road linking the two was cut off,” Kihara said. 

The legislator noted that it was still too early to assess the damage caused to homes and farms in the area, with 85 families displaced from their homes. 

 [Antony Gitonga, Nikko Tanui, Julius Chepkwony, Irissheel Shanzu and Martin Ndiema]