What you need to know:
- Irrigation projects in West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties have been dealt a blow by recurrent cattle raids.
- The government allocated Sh1.5 billion up from Sh1.3 billion this financial year for the Small Scale Irrigation and Value Addition Project.
- It also set aside Sh620 million for the Food Security and Crop Diversification Project.
Many irrigation projects meant to enhance food security and value addition in insecurity-hit counties in the North Rift region are on the brink of collapse despite the government allocating additional funds to support agri-pastoralism.
The projects in West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties have been dealt a blow by recurrent cattle raids as well as administrative and financial mismanagement triggering worry among the more than 4,500 families that depend on them for food security.
The government allocated Sh1.5 billion up from Sh1.3 billion this financial year for the Small Scale Irrigation and Value Addition Project.
It also set aside Sh620 million for the Food Security and Crop Diversification Project.
According to the National Irrigation Board, the country’s irrigation potential is estimated at 1.3 million hectares yet only 162,000 hectares (12 per cent) have been developed.
The board has launched feasibility studies on irrigation schemes in Kerio Valley with the aim of rehabilitating those that are stalled and initiating new ones to motivate pastoralists to diversify into crop production.
Among the projects that are to benefit from the plan are Wei Wei in West Pokot, and Arror and Tot in Elgeyo-Marakwet, funded by the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA).
Three years ago, the government allocated more than Sh60 million for irrigation projects in Turkana.
Among the projects that benefited is Katilu, which was allocated Sh45 million to have 650 hectares placed under agricultural production.
Another Sh20 million was allocated for the establishment of the Lotubae irrigation scheme in Turkana East, a project which also serves residents of East Baringo.
An additional Sh38 million was allocated to the Nakwomoru irrigation project in the Turkwel gorge.
The scheme, which acts as a buffer zone between the Pokot and Turkana communities, has stalled due to recurrent cattle rustling and banditry.
KVDA is implementing multi-million irrigation schemes in Turkana, West Pokot, Elgeyo-Marakwet and Baringo counties to improve crop production and attain food security.
According to KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos, Sh59 million is to be pumped into Lomut Irrigation Scheme in West Pokot to place 800 acres of land under agriculture to boost food production.
“More than 1,200 families will benefit from the project by providing food security and sustainable income generation to communities that have experienced recurrent food shortages,” said Mr Naporos.
The government, in collaboration with an Italian firm, launched phase three of the Sigor Wei Wei integrated development project in September last year through KVDA, with more than 325 acres of land put under irrigation.
Some 600 pastoralist families using the project for subsistence and cash crop farming earned more than Sh40 million from the last season’s harvest.
Reliance on relief food
“Wei Wei is one of the main irrigation schemes under the Big Four Agenda on food production and supports 200 farmers. The schemes help residents of West Pokot, Pokot East, Baringo and Turkana to attain food security and reduce reliance on relief food in the arid region,” Mr Naporos said.
The farmers in the irrigation schemes source their farm inputs from Kenya Seed Company on a loan basis.
The amount is then deducted after the produce is harvested and sold.
“Although the soil in most parts of West Pokot County is highly fertile, dependence on the rain-fed farming system has prevented crop farming from becoming an alternative food source,” said Daimo Chetotum, one of the farmers.
He explained that as the climate becomes more volatile due to global warming, livestock farming is being devastated, leaving crop production under irrigation as the only alternative means of survival.