Galana irrigation scheme could be another big white elephant

While the Galana-Kulalu 1.2 million acre Irrigation Scheme and Food Security Project is not necessarily a white elephant as Parliament’s Agriculture Committee seemed to deem it (Saturday Nation, October 31, 2015), it certainly had huge patches of grey.

Its objectives are noble, but the shame of it lies in its planning and execution so far.

As the committee pointed out, a whooping Sh1 billion was purported to have been spent in its feasibility study, yet in explaining why maize yield was only 10 bags rather than the targeted 40 bags of 90kg per acre, the Water and Irrigation Principal Secretary, Mr Richard Lesiyampe, claimed that the initial plantation of 500 acres was an experiment intended to identify the best variety for the area!

If this is so, then what was the feasibility study for? On what was the expectation of 40 bags per acre based on?

While Israel is world famous in mechanised agriculture, which could explain why Green Arava Company was contracted for the project, why was the vital input of local ecologists, agronomists, farm economists and sociologists from relevant ministries and academia ignored?

Important factors, which such local expertise would have contributed on are, among others, ecologically and economically viable enterprises, best enterprise combinations and enterprise programming.

PERTINENT QUESTIONS

While, for example, certain maize varieties could have been ecologically suited to the area, rationale of mechanically irrigating a non-horticultural field crop that hardly breaks even under rain fed cultivation was definitely questionable.

Even if the envisaged 40 bags per acre were achieved, simple calculations show that production costs would still be much higher than the revenue.

Other pertinent questions are, why beef ranching, which in any case could go on without irrigation, instead of stall feeding?

Why maize for grain instead of the more intensive silage, which would support beef and dairy?

Why Sugarcane, which has already proved unviable in other government projects?

Why only 50,000 of orchards, which is not only the most ecologically suitable and economically viable enterprise but also the one with the highest potential for industrialisation?

If careful re-planning is not undertaken immediately, the project is headed for definite failure.

It will be a waste of resources and a real big shame for this country.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION