KENYA – The Government of Kenya has launched a new roadmap titled National Irrigation Services Strategy that will cost it Sh389 billion (US$3.1 billion) to boost and strengthen irrigation infrastructure and support the realization of food security in the country.

Water, Sanitation, and Irrigation CS Alice Wahome, who launched the new roadmap said implementation of the proposed interventions is estimated to be over four years.

Wahome said the National Irrigation Services Strategy is a significant step towards demand-responsive investments to sustainably exploit the untapped potential by expanding and intensifying irrigated agriculture.

The strategy identifies key constraints to irrigation development and management and defines interventions to address them.

She echoed the words of President William Ruto during the Daker 2 Summit, saying it is only through unlocking the irrigation potential will Africa and the country achieves its goal of reaching national food security and socio-economic development.

She explained that the multi-billion strategy amount includes the cost of irrigation infrastructure development, construction of water harvesting and storage structures, sector capacity development, targeted support programs, and irrigation information management.

“This calls for concerted efforts from all the sector players, in particular development partners and the private sector, to support the government efforts in financing implementation of the strategy,” Wahome said.

In Kenya, agriculture is still largely dependent on rainfall, exposing the country to extreme climatic conditions such as drought affect the country.

According to Wahome, Kenya has an irrigation potential of 1.9 million acres (without water storage) or 3.0 million acres with water storage. To date, 670,000 acres have been put under irrigation through initiatives by the Ministry, development partners, and other stakeholders, she noted.

“This leaves a lot of irrigation potential unexploited. Our country is facing challenges in food security due to perennial drought as a result of climate change. Irrigation offers the best intervention in addressing these challenges,” she added.

Effective implementation requires coordination between national and county governments, and collaboration among sector players, Wahome underscored.

The Ministry of Water also announced that will open up 5,000 acres of the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme to private companies next month under the private-public partnership (PPP).

This will be the first time that the government will be opening up the scheme under the PPP arrangement after many years of a false start.

Irrigation Permanent Secretary Mugambi Gitonga said several local investors have already expressed an interest in commencing the planting of maize in February and the ministry will allocate 5,000 acres.

The irrigation strategy comes just weeks after Dr. Ruto directed the Ministry of Water to ensure that a significant portion of the scheme is put under food production by the end of this year.

The investor will be given part of the model farm that is already fitted with an irrigation system with an additional 10,000 acres expected to be put under food production in the next six months from February.

The government through the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) is expected to construct a dam starting next April that will see an additional 350,000 acres be put under food production and 500,000 acres by the year 2026. It will bring the total acreage under irrigation to 1.1 million acres.

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