KENYA – High cost of transporting maize from Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme to the depot has seen the management of the National Irrigation Board (NIB) request the government to reinstate some of the items that were slashed when the budget was revised.

The NIB is pushing for the return of the milling plant that was to be built at Galana-Kulalu scheme for flour production on the farm and cut the distance that the maize has to be transported.

Acting general manager Gitonga Mugambi says the nearest National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), which is in Voi, is more than 100 kilometres away, making transportation cost high since they have to hire trucks for ferrying stocks.

“It is becoming expensive to transport maize all the way to Voi and we find it reasonable to place a milling plant on the farm, which will even make the cost of flour cheaper at the market,” said Mr Mugambi.

The milling component was slashed out of the budget this year with Water and Irrigation secretary Eugene Wamalwa saying the private sector would handle it.

This was after the government reviewed the budget for the model farm from Sh14 billion to Sh7 billion, omitting some budgeted items including the milling plant and a training institute.

The mill was to process maize flour on the farm in line with the government bid in to lower cost of the staple.

The project contractor — Green Arava of Israel — had procured the equipment from South Africa and the preparations for installment were underway before it was cancelled.

The NIB is harvesting maize at the scheme, making it the third time that the crop is being harvested at the ambitious a million-acre project.

Mr Mugambi also says the training school should be placed at the farm to enable students undergoing training in Israel in water technology to have a place where they can transfer knowledge to others when they come back.  

About 100 youths will get free training on irrigation engineering in Israel annually for six years, with the same training model being replicated in various Kenyan institutions of higher learning.

The model firm is funded by a Sh7.2 billion loan from the Israeli government which is providing an additional grant of Sh3.5 billion for training.

After years of infrastructure development and field trials to establish good seed variety at the one million acre scheme, the planting of the first phase of the entire 10,000 acre started in April.

The trials were meant to select the most productive seed variety out of the 16 that were planted in the 1,000-acre piece of land. The NIB has settled on three types that yielded 39 bags per acre.

The second phase that involves 400,000 acres is supposed to start after the pilot farm has been completed.

The Galana project is aimed at bridging the annual deficit of 20 million bags of maize. The NIB believes that putting 250,000 acres under maize will be enough to bridge the deficit and slash imports from Uganda and Tanzania.

Galana is a public-private partnership project where the State provides irrigation infrastructure while private investors plant crops.

September 2, 2016;