The implementation of several multi-million-shilling flagship projects aimed at boosting food security in arid and semi-arid areas of the North Rift region have stalled.
Consequently, Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) has said at least five irrigation projects have been halted following heavy rains in the region in the last three months, which has caused flooding, landslides and mudslides.
KVDA also cited locust invasion and restrictions aimed at containing Covid-19 as some of the hitches that have dealt a blow to implementation of the projects that were expected to boost food security locally.
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The natural calamities rocked parts of Turkana, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet and Samburu counties, destroying irrigation projects.
KVDA’s Managing Director Sammy Naporos said locusts destroyed Sh300 million phase three of Wei Wei irrigation project - a 1,000-acre maize crops plantation in West Pokot County.
“We had started reviving some stalled projects while at the same time initiating new irrigation projects when Covid-19, locusts and floods hit the country, forcing us to halt everything on the ground,” said Naporos.
He added that the authority was compelled to temporarily scale down implementation of the flagship projects and that they would resume as soon as the situation normalises.
Naporos said the recent heavy downpour disrupted and stalled works at Chepkum and Lomut irrigation schemes located in the drought prone Kerio Valley in Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties respectively.
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Also hit are the 800 acres Loyapat and Nakul sorghum irrigation schemes in Turkana, which the KVDA boss said had been invaded by desert locusts.
“However, we assure people in the affected areas that all the stalled projects funded by the national government and donor countries through the regional authority that development programmes are set for revival from next month,” the MD said.
“We were expecting to be handing over the completed irrigation projects to communities at this stage.”
Naporos said the plan was to empower the local communities to manage the projects through co-operative societies for their sustainability. The projects are aimed at encouraging pastoralists to diversify to crop production instead of solely depending on nomadic life, which leads to conflict over pasture and water.
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“We have no option but to scale down the implementation of all key flagship projects implemented by KVDA. We are also seeking funds from our donors to expand the irrigation projects,” said Naporos.
The North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) KVDA is a key development agent in the region as it comes up with its post-Covid-19 economic recovery plan.
“We are looking at food security in our post-Covid-19 strategy. Our focus is to diversify into short term crops to get our region back to its feet after the pandemic,” said Noreb CEO Dominic Biwott.