Posted on May, 14, 2019 at 08:46 am
Martin Mwita - MediaMax Network
Questions abound whether the multi-billion-shilling Galana-Kulalu irrigation project is the answer to Kenya’s food security.
The project, which usually comes under scrutiny whenever there is famine in the country, was initially set to be financed by the exchequer to the tune of Sh14.2 billion but the National Treasury later ended up securing a Sh7.2 billion commercial loan from Bank Leumi of Israel.
National Irrigation Board project manager Charles Muasya says so far, Sh5.9 billion has been disbursed and Sh1.3 billion yet to be received, even as Treasury set aside only Sh10 million for the project in the next financial year.
The project which commenced in September 11, 2014, is running behind schedule by close to one and a half years.
In a past stand-off with NIB, Israel firm Green Arava Ltd (the contractor) had accused the irrigation board of failing to honour requests for payments, even threatening to demobilise from the site.
The board currently managing seven national irrigation schemes namely, Mwea, Perkerra, Hola, Ahero, West Kano, Bunyala and Bura is expected to handover the one-million-acre Galana irrigation project to Agricultural Development Corporation, once it is complete.
Doubt continues to be cast on the project’s ability to meet its crop output targets, mainly maize, as the country pushes to achieve food security under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda.
The board, which is overseeing implementation of the project being developed by Green Arava, yesterday said the initiative has the capacity to produce up to 500,000 bags of maize annually.
In two seasons (per year) the 10,000-acre model farm can produce an average of 25 bags per acre. The outcome of the farm was to be replicated in the one million acres.
Muasya has since admitted there have been previous cases of delays in releasing funds to the contractor, but pointed out that the project was hugely being funded by Bank Leumi of Israeli, hence the State was not to blame.
The project was also slowed down by heavy rains. The short rains of November to December 2014, long rains of March to April 2015 and El Nino of November 2015 to January 2016, NIB and the developer say, caused damage to equipment and also delayed its implementation.
“This is one of the best options we have as a country in achieving food security and we are ready to hand over the 5,100 acres which have already been placed under irrigation infrastructure,” Muasya said.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Henry Rotich has allocated Sh10 million to the project in the next financial year starting July 1, which NIB said will mainly be spent on repair works.
“The budget allocated to project is meant for rehabilitation of the irrigation infrastructure, specifically, the intake works,” Muasya said in an interview.
Galana-Kulalu first came into the spotlight after criticism befell it on the 22,000 bags of maize produced in 2017, which was valued at Sh35.2 million, despite being a multi-billion-shilling project.
The board has, however, defended the project, saying the first two seasons were trials whereby in the first season, 13 different varieties of maize were used in a trial-block system planting.
The first phase involved planting and irrigation on 500 acres which were divided into blocks of between 100 acres and 50 acres for different varieties.
“We did a trial with the different varieties sourced from local seed manufacturers. The produce ranged between 39 bags per acre. Some varieties never performed well as we got up to five bags per acre,” Muasya explained.
“It is important to realise that when we went to Galana, there was never a history or data of any production, especially on maize. At first, we did not know the best variety but we have now settled on five best performing varieties,” he said.
Currently, the cost of production is about Sh57,000 per acre, including power and inputs, but this can be reduced to about Sh16,000 per acre. Rain-fed maize production costs
NIB is developing about eight large-scale projects across the country which includes expansion of the Mwea Irrigation Scheme to 35,000 acres, Lower Kuja, Lower Nzoia, Bura Irrigation Development Project and the Galana-Kulalu.
“We are also developing nine mega dams to increase water storage for irrigation. Thiba dam is 22 per cent complete while the other eight are at different stages of procurement,” said Daniel Nzonzo, head of corporate communication at NIB.
Further, the board is also driving a household water storage programme which targets to put in place 125,000 water pans by 2022.
“To date we have done eight thousand water pans of between a thousand and three thousand cubic meters in about thirty counties,” Nzonzo explained.
“This is one of the best options we have as a country in achieving food security,” Muasya noted adding that NIB is ready to hand over the 5,100 acres which have already been placed under irrigation infrastructure.
Treasury plans to spend Sh5.2 billion on about 70 irrigation projects in different parts of the country in the 2019/20 fiscal year.
Source: MediaMax Network