KENYA – An Israeli firm, Green Arava, Wednesday signed a deal to start a pilot project in the one-million-acre Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme.
The agreement with the National Irrigation Board (NIB) will see it build a 10,000-acre model farm. This is the first stage of the project to be raised tenfold to 100,000 acres in the second phase, culminating in the planned Sh400 billion one-million-acre scheme by 2017. The firm beat 108 other bidders that responded to the government tender in June.
“We specialise in extreme farming conditions. We did so in Europe. In Israel, we use irrigation all-year round with just 80 millimetres, unlike the rainfall density at Galana of about 240mm,” said CEO Barak Tamir.
The model project will cost Sh14.55 billion, with the farm and the irrigation system taking up Sh3.5 billion, knowledge and a logistics centre (Sh3.8 billion), operations and maintenance (Sh3.4 billion), piping (Sh846 million) and taxes (Sh2.3 billion), among other expenses.
SH11 BILLION DEFICIT
The National Treasury has allocated Sh3.5 billion in this year’s Budget for the project, while the Israeli Government will raise the Sh11 billion deficit.
Agriculture Cabinet secretary Felix Koskei, who presided over the ceremony, said the large- scale mechanised irrigation is intended to produce at least 60 bags of maize an acre, in line with the ministry’s long term target of food security.
“We are working on all schemes in the country and we will succeed,” Mr Koskei said.
“NIB will focus on infrastructure, while agronomists will concentrate on production as we seek to lower food prices.”
Some 89 international firms have expressed interest in partnering with the government in the plan. The first crop could be realised around February next year.
The project hopes to have 500,000 acres of land under maize production, 200,000 acres under sugarcane farming, 150,000 acres set aside for beef and game animals, 50,000 acres under horticulture, 50,000 acres for dairy farming and the remaining 50,000 acres to grow fruits.
The model farm is intended to test some concepts that the government has. Eventually, private investors are expected to acquire the one million acres under irrigation. The scheme’s consultancy was launched in January by President Uhuru Kenyatta.