Several irrigation projects have been unveiled in the drought-prone areas of the North Rift in a bid to improve food production.
Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said the government is committed to increase acreage under irrigation to move the country away from rain-fed farming.
“Apart from ongoing Galana/ Kulalu irrigation project, the government is developing irrigation infrastructure in West Pokot, Baringo, Turkana and other counties,” the CS said.
In the current financial year, he said Sh28 billion has been set aside for the projects.
On Friday, Mr Wamalwa accompanied by his Devolution counterpart Mwangi Kiunjuri commissioned the first ever solar-powered irrigation project in Turkana.
He also commissioned three other irrigation projects —the 150-acre Lopayat scheme, 250-acre Marich Pass project and the Napuu project, which is mainly under sorghum.
“This will increase the acreage under irrigation as part of a government strategy to achieve one million acres for national food security,” said Mr Wamalwa, who also commissioned the Kimao and Radat water projects in Baringo County.
Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) boss, David Kimosop said the 150-hectare Napuu irrigation scheme will benefit more than 50,000 households.
“The aquifer Napuu project will cost Sh65 million,” said the KVDA boss.
Mr Kimosop said the authority is working to establish three major water dams in the Kerio Valley basin at a cost of Sh90 billion.
Meanwhile eight North Rift counties have rolled out a multi-billion hydro power project in conjunction with the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen).
The project which will also cost Sh90 billion is jointly being initiated by Uasin-Gishu, Turkana, Baringo, West Pokot, Elgeyo-Marakwet,Samburu, Trans Nzoia and Nandi counties, which are under the North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb).
Mr Kimosop said the projects will help conserve vital water towers in the region including Cherangany and Embobut water catchments.
“The (dams) project will go towards boosting food security through irrigation,” said Mr Kimosop, adding that more than 275 acres of land at Wei Wei in West Pokot County is already under irrigation.
TURN AROUND THE ECONOMY OF THE AREA
The scheme has produced 1,000 tonnes of maize seeds for the Kenya Seed company.
Mr Kimosop said the eight counties under Noreb are coming up with a development master plan following the just-concluded mapping up of resources in the region.
“Kerio Valley sits on massive resources and we want to work with governors to come up with a common plan to alleviate poverty and improve the economic welfare of the people,” said Mr Kimosop.
He said discovery of oil traces in Kerio Valley by Tullow Oil is a huge boost to development prospects of the region.
Tullow Oil has identified the more than 7,000 Km2 Block 12A at Kerio Valley belt, which runs across Elgeyo-Marakwet and Baringo counties, as the potential areas for oil exploration.
Other resources in the area include solar, diatomite, marble, geothermal and hydro energy which leaders say if well utilised can turn around the economy of the area.
Mr Kimosop said the ongoing initiatives will also help end rampant cases of cattle rustling in the region which has significantly contributed to slow development.
He said KVDA in conjunction with Moi University has partnered with 13 Italian investors to set up a multi-billion dairy farm at the university’s main campus.
The ambitious project which will commence later this year is expected to cost between Sh1.6 billion and Sh2 billion.
The deal, which brings together nine specialists in various fields in beef and dairy value chain, has already been sealed with the eight counties to be brought on board.
Speaking recently during a fact-finding mission to the proposed project site at the university’s farm, the Italian investors led by Luca Goldoni praised Kenya for offering an enabling environment for investment.
“Our model dairy farm in Italy is among the best in the world as we generate over 3 million Euros every year after deducting all the expenses. We want to replicate the same in Kenya,” said Mr Goldoni.
The Italian investors noted that upon completion, the farm will produce more than 30,000 litres of milk daily from 1,000 high yielding pedigree heifers.
The university has already donated 300 acres of land for the project with the Italian investors funding it and providing technical expertise. KVDA will offer capacity building and other logistical support.
The university with a population of more than 50,000 currently spends between Sh20 million and Sh22 million to settle electricity bills monthly.
Among other features, the proposed model farm will have a complete processing plant which will manufacture various milk products including butter, yoghurt and powdered milk.