Kenya: State sets aside Sh15b to boost irrigation

More farmers will be put under irrigation programmes to grow food for the growing population. National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich allocated Sh15 billion in this year’s budget to finance irrigation activities. Of this, Sh10.3 billion fund the irrigation projects outlined by the National Irrigation Board (NIB), while Sh3.5 billion will finance the one million acre Jubilee Government flagship project Galana/Kulalu irrigation project.

The Sh10.3 billion will be expected to finance 114 irrigation projects in the 2015/16 financial year. Under the current scenario, irrigation activities have been under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

But recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta created a new docket — Water and Irrigation Ministry and appointed Eugene Wamalwa as the Cabinet Secretary nominee — meaning irrigation projects will be housed in this new ministry.

Within the budget, Treasury also allocated Mwea Irrigation Scheme farmers Sh1.2 billion compensation in the coming financial year.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Sicily Kariuki said the country’s irrigation potential stands at 1.3 million hectares out of which only 162, 000 hectares have been exploited, accounting for only 12 per cent.

Two months ago, when opening a stakeholders’ forum to discuss the recently published Irrigation Bill and Policy 2015, Ms Kariuki said the government has taken up irrigation as a new front to mechanising and commercialising agriculture.

“We expect more food in the coming years as farmers are introduced to irrigation farming. For long, we have relied on traditional methods of farming which are obsolete. That is why we have not been able to produce more food. Once completed, the ambitious Galana/Kulalu project will boost the country’s food security,” she said.

The project hopes to have 500,000 acres of land under maize production, 200,000 acres under sugar-cane farming, 150,000 acres on beef and game animals, 50,000 acres under horticulture, 50,000 acres for dairy farming and the remaining 50,000 acres for fruits.

He added that after completion of the 10,000 acres model farm, it will be expanded to 100,000 acres. The country has seven large scale irrigation schemes –Mwea, Bura, West Kano, Perkerra, Tana, Bunyala and Ahero irrigation schemes.

In 2015/16 financial year, NIB Chief Executive Daniel Barasa said most of the projects will be implemented as from next year under a Public Private Partnership approach. “The new schemes will embrace modern water distribution technologies such as drip and sprinkler methods to enhance efficient production of food,” said Eng Barasa.

Of the 114 irrigation schemes, 40 have already been designed and implementation will start immediately under a Public Private Partnership approach while another 70 are at the designing stage.

Rotich noted that to boost the country’s economy, there is need to extend more resources to agriculture. This will inturn address the problem of high unemployment, underdevelopment and poverty.

“We are continuing to invest in irrigated agriculture in a bid to build resilience in our economy and guarantee food security for our people throughout the year,” said Mr Rotich.

He added, “These are part of the bold measures the government will pursue in the coming financial year to ensure the agriculture sector records sound growth. We expect once the strategies are employed, the country will enjoy food security, diversified exports and reduced food prices to consumers.”

According to the Economic Survey 2015, the agriculture sector grew by 3.5 per cent in 2014 from 5.2 per cent in 2013.