Daggers have been drawn between farmers and a water body over the closer of two canals in the border town of Taveta in Taita Taveta county.
Farmers are up in arms against the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) which had briefly shut down the watering points to their farms for non-payment of what is referred to as watering fee of Shs. 4 million per a canal.
Through a motion brought before the area county assembly the said farmers claimed that the closer of the water sources two weeks ago had grossly affected they actitivies.
“The action by this water body is seriously interfering with not only with food security in this area which is the considered the coast region bread basket but also our economic livelihoods.” said Johnes Maskuji who represents Mboghoni ward.
“The closure of the canals contravenes the provisions of the Bill of Rights as enshrined in Article 42 of the Constitution entitling every person to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food and of acceptable quality, and clean and safe drinking water in adequate quantities ,” said the MCA’s statement to the special sitting yesterday.
Maskuji claimed that farmers had incurred heavy loses following the closure of the canals as they no longer irrigate their food crops.
The region has over 10 irrigation canals among them Njoro Kubwa, Kimala, Njukini, Saravo, Kivito, Sir Ramson and Challa-Tuire.
The Jubilee Party MCA sought a statement to the condition and status of water, irrigation and agricultural activities in Taveta Sub County.
“This particular statement therefore stands directed to the county department of water and irrigation, through the county assembly select committee of water and Irrigation, to seek an urgent clarification, and the way forward concerning this matter which poses a great threat to food security in Taveta ,” said Maskuji’s statement.
In a quick rejoinder, Kiamba Kimeu who is the WARMA sub- Regional Manager faulted the claims from farmers and leaders saying that his organization had just very briefly shut down the canals but have since been opened after an agreement with them.
“We indeed had closed Kimala and Challa- Tuire irrigation canals after farmers defaulted in paying irrigation fees charged on them by the management but for a very short period of time.”said Kimeu.
Kimeu disclosed that farmers using the canals pay five cents per 1,000 litres of water used in their farms.
“Farmers in the two canals defaulted in the payment of irrigation fees of only five cents per 1,000 litres of water to their farms. We gave them time and it elapsed hence disconnecting the water resource services,” he noted.
“We later sat down with the farmers and entered into an agreement and after the farmers made a down payment, WARMA reconnected the water.” Kimeu added.
The regional management confirmed that the farmers were now using the canals saying that the statement sought by the MCA had been overtaken by events.
“We have not closed irrigation canals as claimed by farmers and local leaders. As I am speaking to you now, local farmers are using water in their farms,” he explained.
The water boss, however lamented that farmers from the Kamleza irrigation scheme which uses water from the giant Njoro Kubwa canal that feeds the other smaller ones as they had refused to pay for the water services.
He observed that his company had reported the same to the law enforcers adding that the continued illegal activities would leave them with no choice other than closing the water machines until the farmers did what was required of them.
At the same time, the manager said he would liaise with Interior and Coordination officials to sensitize the local community on the need to observe law and order.
“We will embark on sensitization forums to have dialogue with the farmers. If dialogue fails then the law will take its course,” said Kimeu who is in charge of Kajiado County and parts of Taita-Taveta.
He further asked politicians to stop politicizing the issue as this would adversely affect the delivery of quality services to the local community.
WARMA, established under section 11 of the water Act, 2016, sustainably and equitably allocates water resources among competing needs.
The authority regulates and manages water resources for sustainable development.
The Speaker, Meshack Maghanga gave the committee charged with water and irrigation issues to give their report in the next two weeks.
By Fatuma Jumeah