Completion of irrigation project set to double rice production in Nyanza

More than 12,500 farmers are expected to double their harvests once the first phase of the Lower Nzoia Irrigation project is completed as they will be able to do two seasons of rice a year.

Irrigation Principal Secretary (PS) Ephantus Kimotho said farmers will get enough water by gravity when the Ksh3.8 billion project is operational.

“This will be very efficient and cost-effective and will benefit more farmers,” he said.

The long term benefits are anticipated in the giant project, which cuts across Siaya and Busia counties.

“We are looking forward to decommissioning the old pumping scheme, which uses electricity and has proved to be very expensive,” he added. 

He said this as he toured the project that is 86.44 per cent complete, and is expected to be wrapped up in September 2023.

Farmers at work at the lower Nzoia irrigation project. Photo Fredrick Odiero

Kimotho said the NIA currently spends Ksh700,000 monthly to pump water to Bunyala Irrigation Scheme in Busia County, and that the project will be able to save up to Ksh8 million as the water will naturally flow by gravity.

He assured farmers that they will soon be able to grow high-value crops such as fruits and vegetables on the 5,000 acres in rotation with maize, soybeans and other legumes on the other 5,000 acres.

Kimotho said NIA has engaged an agronomist who has adopted new rice varieties, such as Komboka that yields two tonnes per acre.

He was accompanied by National Irrigation Authority (NIA) Board chairman Eng Gilbert Maluki, acting CEO Eng Charles Muasya, Budalang’i MP Raphael Wanjala, and other senior government officials. 

Wanjala commended the government for addressing factors that have delayed the project over the years.

NIA estimates that rice production in 2023-24 will be 12,000 metric tonnes, with an economic value of Ksh660 million per season.

The project, funded by the World Bank and IDA at 70 per cent and the Kenya government at 30 per cent, commenced in 2018.

The delayed completion is blamed on protracted challenges of compensation of locals to vacate the land on which the project stands, which covers 4,043ha (10,000 acres). The Siaya (6,270 acres) and Busia (3,730 acres) projects are part of the scheme.

By Fredrick Odiero

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