The government appears finally set to abandon the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Development Project which has so far gobbled up Sh5.2 billion with little to show for it, and has instead shifted its attention to smaller irrigation projects.
In the 2019/2020 budget estimates a mere Sh10 million has been allocated to the project which was launched in 2014 with great fanfare and was billed as the answer to Kenya’s perennial food shortage.
It has not been allocated any estimates in the next two financial years, sounding the death knell to the grand scheme even as questions remain concerning the viability of the project in the first place, and who is culpable for the loss of taxpayer’s money.
After three harvests of mixed success, the contractor left the site last year, accusing the National Irrigation Board, the project implementing agency, of not paying for work done.
The government now appears to have shifted attention to 36 irrigation projects spread across the country and which have been allocated Sh2 billion.
Last year the projects, dubbed National Expanded Irrigation Programme received Sh2.3 billion and another Sh1 billion has been scheduled for the next two financial years.
The smaller irrigation projects include Kiirua-Kabirichia, Nyanjigi, Meiteitei, Riamukurwe, Tunyai/Kakurunga, Naroosura/Nkuruman, Kaplelartet, Oldinyiro, Shimba Hills, Bura, Perkerra, Hola and Sabor.
Others include Kamuka, Ngi’nda, Bunyala, West Kano, Mweru Umoja, Chemase, Mirichu Murika, Aiwet, Lower Sio, Molo Sirwet, Tunyo, Mulwaper and Itabua Muthatari irrigation projects.
Another big winner is the Mwea Irrigation Development Project under the Thiba Dam and Irrigation Area, which has received Sh1.98 billion with another Sh4 billion scheduled in the next two financial years.
The shift in approach appears to follow the script of the government’s Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy 2019-2029, one of whose highlights is to develop irrigation supported large-scale farms across the country.
“While much of the land will be state-owned, the new farm enterprises will be predominantly funded, owned and operated by the private sector,” reads a section of the strategy.
But Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich continued to pump money into dams with Itare, whose contractor, CMC di Ravenna filed for bankruptcy with only 49 per cent of work done, receiving Sh100 million in the latest estimates.
Chemosusu, also in the Rift Valley, received Sh700 million. Thwake in Kitui/Makueni was allocated Sh5.9 billion while Karumenu on the Laikipia-Nyeri border got Sh4.2 billion.
The huge allocations come in the wake of unconcluded investigations into the Kimwarer and Aror dam scandals in which Sh21 billion may have been lost yet no work has been done.