A stalled irrigation project intended to end a perennial water shortage in Kibinyiri village is about to disappear into distant memory.
It takes some head scratching for Sacho residents to remember the Kapkelelwa Irrigation Scheme along River Kiping’ato that was abandoned five years ago.
A recent tour of the place earmarked for the Sh14 million project reveals a site overgrown with bushes with only a solitary signpost to show that work was started.
Nearly Sh5 million was allocated construction of a weir to hold the water before it could be channeled to people’s farms.
Phase Two of the project, which involved piping, had been allocated Sh9 million. A single pipe to supply water to the farms is situated 80 metres along the near-dry river
Pipes bought in 2016 are stored in a shed 500 metres from the dam's site, where some of the wire mesh used to build the weir has been torn and swept away.
Residents say any hopes they had of the project changing their lives were dashed.
“We did not get anything from the project. The Sh14 million we hear was pumped into the project is just a tale to us," says William Chebet.
Boniface Kangongo, another resident, said locals were still living in abject poverty.
“If we had this irrigation scheme in place, we would be doing a lot. We feel cheated,” he said.
Reports that the residents were using some of the water to grow vegetables were dismissed by a third local, James Kiptoo.
Mr Kiptoo said they bought their vegetables from Kapkayo market in Elgeyo Marakwet every Tuesday.
Mr Kangongo called on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the stalled project.
Kipchumba Keitany, a former acting Finance minister in the Baringo County Government, said the intention was to build a mini-irrigation project.
Mr Kipchumba confirmed that Sh5 million was allocated to the project in the 2013/2014 financial year to build a barrier to hold back the water before it could be channeled to farms.
In the next financial year, when Kipchumba was moved to head the Water and Irrigation department, he said Sh10 million intended for the project was reallocated.
“The National Irrigation Board came in and took over the project in the 2014/2015 financial year. The Sh10 million that had been set aside was reallocated to other departments through a supplementary budget by the county assembly," said Kipchumba.
He added that while talks to expand the project were ongoing, the irrigation agency was disbanded and the project appeared to have been forgotten.
In his 2015/2016 report, the Auditor-General indicated that the Irrigation ministry spent Sh32 million on various projects.
According to the report, the Baringo County Government had indicated it would implement the Kapkelelwa project in phases, with farmers in the drier parts of the county expected to use the water for irrigation.
When completed, 1,075 acres were targeted for irrigation, with the Kapkelelwa scheme expected to cover 200 acres.
“Audit verification established that although the projects were declared complete, there was very little or no irrigation taking place,” read the report.
It was further revealed that the county government had not done feasibility studies on the project’s viability. As a result, weirs were built on seasonal rivers that had dried up or were on the verge of drying up.
The current Water and Irrigation Executive Joel Koima said he was aware of the challenges facing the scheme, adding that the irrigation agency, which had been reconstituted, had pledged to fund the project.
“We are following up the matter with the National Irrigation Board and so far it has promised us Sh50 million. Soon people will start irrigating their farms,” said Mr Koima.
Governor Stanley Kiptis said he had asked for a report on the irrigation schemes to ascertain their viability.
“So far, my office has ordered for a report on the status of various irrigation schemes in the area. We will soon get to know which ones are viable and which ones are not. It is from there that we will know what to do next,” said Mr Kiptis.
Residents, he added, must get value for their money.
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