Why Nyatike farmers are ready to embrace Irrigation farming

Delay in signing a tripartite agreement among the NIB, County government Nyatike farmers is threatening to derail a multi-billion agricultural project in Migori County.

Consequently, confusion and uncertainty continue to assail the implementation of the lower Kuja irrigation scheme in Nyatike Sub-County of Migori County, five years after it was launched.

According to the Migori County Irrigation Officer, Kennedy Koyoson, the papered plan was to see the National government through the National Irrigation Board (NIB) do the infrastructural works and supply water to the farms, the County government was to help farmers carry out the actual food production while the Nyatike community (farmers) was to independently manage its farms.

Although six-phase Lower Kuja irrigation scheme has been dogged by controversy over claims of alleged financial deceits; the project still stands viable and must be implemented to its finality.

Local farmers say it is taking too long for the National government to complete phase one of the whole project planned to gobble a total of Sh5.4 billion to enable the region produce enough food for the region and the country as a whole.

Some 19,293 ha had been ear-marked for the project traversing three divisions of Karungu, Nyatike and Kachola with a total Population of over 30,000, across 14 sub-locations.

However, to date the infrastructural work has only covered a half of the ear-marked two blocks serving only 40ha of the projected 400ha in phase one of the project. Many parts of the projected blocks in phase one are not yet receiving water because the water channels have not been laid, explained Mr. Koyoson.

Initially, phase 1 of the project which commenced in 2012 was to be completed by November 2013 but failed, forcing the government to extend its life to April 2014, which also flopped.

On July 2014, Felix Koskei, the immediate former agricultural Minister, visited Nyatike and assured that the Government was keen to see that the country produce enough food through irrigation programmes.

He said the government was funding the lower Kuja irrigation scheme together with other such mega programmes in Tana River, Mwea, Pekera, Ahero and Wei Wei in Turkana. Many others were in the offing to ensure the country remained food secure.

Each County was to initiate large scale irrigation farming and both the National and County Governments would have a big role to play in ensuring their successes, he emphasised at that time.

However, five years down the line, the mega project is still reeling in serious problems holding back the intended massive food production from the region at the time when the country is experiencing serious food shortage.

Most of the 60 farmers’ mouths in block M are watering at the prospects of pocketing millions of shillings from carrying out modern farming within the scheme.

Considering that agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy and development, Nyatike farmers have for the past few years hoped to cash in on the lucrative project to produce food and earn more from the crops.

However, it is paining farmers that their hopes are yet to come true with most fearing that the project could turn out to be a white elephant, says Jack Chuchu, the chairman of the Community in the Lower Kuja Irrigation Scheme.

Chuchu who was accompanied by his secretary, Ezekiel Okeyo Adundo, said, the ambitious project if implemented to its fullest could turn the region into a food basket and transform the living standards of the local population.

But the two pointed an accusing finger to the county government noting that it has failed to address farmers’ interests. The governor had initially shown unwavering interests in the irrigation scheme, he said adding that as time moved on he abandoned the effort.

As pledged, no seeds, fertilizer or subsidized tractor services have been advanced to the needy farmers by the county government to help them enhance farming within the scheme.

Adundo says the devolved system is one of the hallmarks of the new Constitution whose objects and principles include promoting social and economic development.

However, the director of the governor’s press services, Nicholus Anyuor, says the county government is still committed to seeing that the scheme serves its intended purpose to the local people in the near future.

Admitting that the devolved government skipped providing farmers with farm inputs last season, Anyuor assures that plans are underway next season to distribute seeds and fertilizers to farmers to help them produce enough food within the scheme.

The county government is also going to help them with tractor services at subsidized rates besides training farmers on modern farming techniques, said Anyuor.

A pilot farming at the scheme has shown crops such as Soya beans, Watermelon and Rice can be produced from the region. Last season, watermelon farmers earned over Shs.2 million while those who grew Soya beans produce more than 50 tons of the crop.

Maize did not do well because of a streak of diseases that attacked the crop. And because the farmers did not have proper knowledge and resources to deal with the diseases, they lost a big chunk of their crops, said the Mr. Isaiah Adoli, an agronomist seconded by NIB.

He says the area is fertile and can support growth of all kinds of food crops like maize, sorghum, rice mainly Nerica, which is still under trial and even cash crops like cotton and sugarcane. What is now needed most is education of the farmers to create awareness on modern farming techniques and the best crops to plant and at what time to plant, he says.

A part from crop growing, the scheme was also planned to control excess water from Rivers Kuja and Migori which always cause flooding in the lower parts of Nyatike, displacing people within Modi, Angugo, Nyora and Kabuto villages.

It was also to trigger the provision of clean water to the people and animals besides directly improving general health services and road-networks to the people.

Source: Kenya News Agency