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Bura irrigation scheme to retire expensive diesel pump system

By Patrick Alushula | January 21st 2017
With financing from National Treasury and Arab Development partners, the 39-year-old scheme is developing a new water intake point that will rely on gravity as opposed to fuel.PHOTO: COURTESY

Bura Irrigation Scheme is constructing a gravity system to replace the pumps that consume thousands of litres of diesel every week.

With financing from National Treasury and Arab Development partners, the 39-year-old scheme is developing a new water intake point that will rely on gravity as opposed to fuel.

The Arab partners are drawn from Kuwait, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (Badea) and Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries Fund for International Development (OFID).

The project is expected to be complete in March next year. National Irrigation Board (NIB) officials told the press during on-site visit that the project which involves the construction of a 25 kilometre canal will cost Sh7.3 billion.

The completion of the project, according to the Scheme Manager Eng Felix Shiundu, will see the cost of operation and maintenance drop drastically and also help in more than doubling the size of scheme under irrigation from the current 12,000 acres to 25,000 acres.

“Abstracting water using the diesel pump has been very expensive. Pumping for 17 hours every day has been costing us over Sh110,000 each day. But once we shift to gravity system, we will save Sh3 million monthly,” said Eng Shiundu.

According to the scheme’s Chairman of Water Users Association Stephen Githinji, farmers currently pay about Sh3,000 towards water and maintenance. Initially, the design of the scheme was to have a canal that could bring in 11,000 litres per second but due to financial constraints the canal was only developed half way to do 5,000 litres per second.

 According to the scheme manager, once the canal is expanded, the scheme could work at its maximum.

Between 1985 and 2005, the 39-year old scheme was being tossed in the hands of various ministries including Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reclamation, Regional and Water Development as well as Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

However, after a series of mismanagement that saw it almost grounded, NIB came on board in 2005 to rehabilitate and set it back on course.

Meanwhile, as drought continues to ravage most parts of the country, the impact is being felt on the water levels of River Tana, the source of water for both Bura and Hola irrigation schemes in Tana River County.

Shiundu said low flow of river upstream is being felt in Tana River especially over the weekends. This, he attributed to the rationing of the KenGen’s seven upstream dams such as Masinga and Kiambere. “We have some of the maize in the scheme wilting because of the low flows of the river. But we hope this will not be a menace to the project,” he said.

To avert this situation in future, the scheme is also considering setting up a dam to harvest water during rainy season where it sometimes causes flooding in the generally dry Tana River County. The scheme is the source of livelihood to over 2,245 households with each owning three acres of land.


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