The Galana-Kulalu project will be revived and other model farms rolled out, Israeli Ambassador Oded Joseph has said.
The multibillion-shilling project is at the heart of Kenya-Israel relations, he said, and is too important in transforming the country to be abandoned.
The project has gobbled up more than Sh6 billion.
In August 2014, the National Irrigation Board (NIB) signed a Sh14.5 billion contract with Israeli firm Green Arava Ltd to start irrigated maize farming in the Galana-Kulalu scheme in Kilifi and Tana River counties.
As of March 2018, only 5,000 acres of the targeted one million had been put under crop, with officials telling Parliament that a paltry 22,000 bags of maize worth Sh35.2 million had been produced. Last year, Green Arava claimed that NIB owed it Sh1 billion, even as the board insisted the figure was Sh200 million.
The Agriculture Cabinet secretary at the time, Mwangi Kiunjuri, admitted that the project had been marred by corruption, blaming people he did not name for inflating costs.
But Mr Joseph said Kenya, just like Israel, is a consensus country and that many stakeholders he was in touch with have committed to “invigorate and scale the project to the national level”.
“We are making huge and committed efforts to put relevant players together to make the right decisions to put Galana back on track.”
He said that besides Galana, at least two other centres of excellence where farmers will have a “24/7 support centres” will be established.
Under the plan, the model farms would offer expertise to independent farmers or farmers in co-operatives in five or seven years using Israeli technology, Mr Joseph said.
“I have been in conversation with all the key leaders and my sense is that the project will be brought back on track. We have no choice but to succeed. The project will help address President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda item of food security.”
But Mr Joseph would not be drawn into commenting on the details that led to the negative publicity about the project that had been billed as the answer to Kenya’s food insecurity.
“The sooner we get every component back on track and take it to its full capacity the better,” he said.
“The lesson from Galana-Kulalu is that you have to compliment the good work on the ground by taking supportive infrastructure. A model or even regular farm cannot succeed without the road to ferry goods to the market or equipment to the farm. The same applies for electricity and water. And once you have done that, those areas will also attract tourism investment.”
He defended the viability of the project, saying the analysis given by Kenyan and Israeli researchers was satisfactory.
“I agree that the project may not have been handled in an ideal manner … Questions about viability are not only legitimate, but they are also necessary. The secret of Israeli technology is that when you do projects you learn from them.”