[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Work at the Oluch Kimira irrigation scheme project in Homa Bay county is on course.
Farmers have started reaping from the project which is being undertaken by the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) in Rangwe and Karachuonyo constituencies.
Previously, the project which started in 2007 was dogged by delays and challenges.

In 2021, the Defence committee of the National Assembly called for a forensic audit of the Sh7.2 billion Kimira-Oluch irrigation project.

The committee asked the Office of Auditor General to examine the implementation of Kimira-Oluch Smallholder Farm Improvement Project (Kosfip) because reports were showing that there was shoddy work on parts of the project. 

But things are now on an upward trajectory.

A visit to the site shows that farmers are now producing food crops such as rice, maize, sorghum, beans, tomatoes, green grams, watermelons, tissue culture bananas and vegetables. Farmers are also selling their farm produce in the local market to earn a living.

Former Managing Director of Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) Dr Raymond Omollo said they have developed the irrigation infrastructure in two phases.
“Construction of Tertiary Irrigation Distribution and Drainage System is almost complete. Phase two value addition for the project is also almost complete,” said Omollo who is now the Interior Permanent Secretary.

“The project is cultivating high-value maize, sorghum, rice, beans, tomatoes, green grams, watermelons, tissue culture bananas, leafy and vegetables,” said Omollo.
He explained that there are two stages of irrigation infrastructure consisting of two head works/intake weirs, one at Kimira and another one at Oluch.

It has 59.05Km of water conveyance system; two sand traps in each scheme; four main siphons; 57 minor siphons, 10-night storages; 76.5Km drainage system, 35.18Km of access and service roads among others.

Stage two which is the construction of the Tertiary Irrigation Distribution and Drainage System is almost complete.

And 50 per cent of 3,000 farm households have access to irrigation water for agricultural production.  Some  276 farmers have been trained on modern farming techniques,  while 336 farmers have been trained in the operation and maintenance of the schemes.

School fees needs

A rice farmer at Nyangueso in Homa Bay Salmon Okech says the project has helped them increase rice production. 

Another rice farmer from Oluch Kimira John Onditi, said the project has enabled them to grow quality crops on large scale which they use for domestic consumption and sell surplus to the local market. From the proceeds, they have managed to pay school fees and buy dairy cows. 

Mathews Onyango Wuon Obiero from lower Karachuonyo says the establishment of Oluch Kimira irrigation has changed the economic status of the region as the living standards of the locals has improved.  Onyango, who is an employee of Homa Bay county urges locals to embrace the project as the only way to increase their income. 

 Researchers have also welcomed the project’s progress.

“The Oluch -Kimira project is providing additional food to the region and has economically empowered local farmers,” said agricultural researcher Dr Chris Ojiewo.

Green technologies

Dr Ojiewo, a lead researcher with CIMMYT, said there is need to establish a fruits and vegetables processing plant to boost household incomes and the economy of the Lake Basin economy.     
An economist Charles Ayoro said these valued food crops are addressing food and nutrition security in the region and alleviating poverty and sustainable growth through increased farm incomes. 
“Food scarcity has serious negative impacts such as malnutrition, undernourishment and increased susceptibility to illnesses,” said Ayoro. 

Other projects within the lake region undertaken by the LBDA, include rice mill at Kibos, which is providing market access to more farmers, Alupe Solar Irrigation Project in Busia, which is transferring green technologies that enhance access to water to drive agricultural and livestock production.

Residents agree that the projects have created jobs, boosted their incomes, sustained the community growth with a food source and other raw materials and above all, led to reduced poverty.