The Sh7.8 billion Thiba dam that was billed as the game-changer for Kenya’s largest rice scheme is complete and ready for filling up during the long rains season.
Rice production in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kirinyaga County is set to double once the 15 million cubic metre dam starts being utilised to irrigate paddy fields in the expanded scheme.
Thiba dam is on 500 acres and engineers from the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) say it will take more than two months to fill up.
The contractors are on site working on auxiliary services since the wall, reservoir and outlet tunnel are complete.
Charles Muasya, NIA’s deputy general manager in charge of infrastructure development, said the area under irrigation will increase from 25,000 to 35,000 acres.
“It will be possible to supply water according to the demand from the rice farmers who have had surplus water during the rainy seasons but run out of water durinwg dry months,” said Muasya.
Currently, farmers in the scheme depend on Nyamindi and Thiba rivers to cultivate rice on 25,000 acres in one season, but the dam will make it possible for them to cultivate 35,000 acres in two seasons.
Muasya added that the economic activities in the region are expected to generate Sh16 billion from Sh10 billion annually with 100,000 new jobs created in the rice value chain. Kenya’s consumption of rice stands at over 400,000 metric tonnes with the Mwea Irrigation Scheme producing 114,000 metric tonnes annually.
Completion of the dam will increase the production by 86,000 metric tonnes, meaning that half of the rice consumed in Kenya will come from the area.
The project was commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018 and was estimated to cost Sh8.2 billion but Muasya said the actual cost came down to Sh7.8 billion.
He said the project is ready to be launched by President Kenyatta who unveiled it in November 2017.
Muasya added that the dam has a provision of supplying drinking water to the communities living nearby.
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The National Irrigation Authority is also expanding other rice irrigation schemes to complement Mwea.