The multibillion Galana-Kulalu integrated project at the Coast was launched with fanfare and billed as a game-changer.
It was primed to immensely expand food production, inspire economic growth and change lives. However, that is becoming a mirage.
For the project is on the verge of collapse and sinking with it billions.
Emerging reports are quite depressing. The project is destined to the dustbins of history if nothing drastic is done to pull it back on the tracks.
And even if that was to happen, indications are that it is not viable — indeed, it was never even at the beginning. Unfortunately, it adds to that horrifying narrative of grandiose projects initiated with pomp and glamour, and with huge sums of money but only let to tumble due to corruption, pilferage and mismanagement.
It is recalled serious reservations were expressed early in the life of the Galana-Kulalu project that was estimated to cost the taxpayer a cool Sh7.2 billion for the model farm. Only after the first year, it emerged the unit-cost of producing maize on an acre was far less than the output. Thus, right at the outset, it was a loss-making enterprise. But there was politics and the populist streak.
Part of the challenge is poor planning and more distinctly, pursuing vendor driven projects; where individuals plot and push government to embark on enterprises that have little value to the economy but only provide avenues for deal-cutting, extortion and siphoning public funds.
But the gravity of the matter becomes even more apparent when it transpires that other major multi-purpose irrigation projects elsewhere are stalling and sinking billions.
Four other dams, namely, Itare in Nakuru County, Arror, Embobut and Kimwawer all in Elgeyo Marakwet have more or less grounded. Already, the Director of Criminal Investigations is seized of these projects and launched inquiries to get to the bottom of the sleaze.
On paper, these projects held great promise for the country. For a country that depends on rain for crop production, irrigation is the most sustainable model, which is why investments in huge dams made sense. This is particularly vital in a context where rains are sporadic and yet when it comes, it is torrential but never harnessed for the dry periods.
Galana-Kulalu together with the other dams were part of the outstanding projects the Jubilee administration fronted as pillars for food security and collectively with others, engines for economic take-off. It is therefore scandalous that they are running aground.
We demand action on those institutions and individuals responsible for the collapse of these projects. President Uhuru Kenyatta recently declared that individuals must carry their own cross. The time to act is now.