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Erratic power supply undermines Usueni Irrigation Scheme in Kitui

Erratic power supply to Sh300 million Usueni Irrigation Scheme in Tseikuru, Kitui County has led to massive crop failure, left farmers counting losses and destabilized household food security.

“Power supply remains the biggest threat towards the implementation of 500 acres phase 1 and 500 acres phase 2 Usueni Irrigation project that was launched in 2011,” said Chris Opondo, the Scheme Manager.

Kitui County Commissioner Thomas Sankei says once the Sh300 million Usueni Irrigation Scheme is deemed sustainable it will be extended to cover 10, 000 acres under food crops to ensure Kitui County is food secure. Photo by Yobesh Onwong’a

Speaking during the Kitui County Development and Implementation Coordination Committee (CDICC) meeting at the County Commissioner’s Boardroom, Opondo said that the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) pays an average of Sh1 million as electricity bill monthly.

“NIA does not owe Kenya Power any outstanding electricity arrears. However, during the month of May, we had a paltry 12-day electricity supply. Crops under irrigation were denied water for 18 days during the month under review,” said the Scheme Manager in his submissions before the CDICC.

The Committee heard that crops under irrigation should be watered after every three days to ensure uniform growth in a bid to yield optimum harvest beneficial to the farmers. “This season farmers had prepared 500 acres and planted Sorghum, cotton, green grams, pigeon peas among other crops in partnership with Kitui County Government, NIA and other donors,” said Opondo.

The Scheme Manager observed that to ensure the sustainability of the irrigated 500 acres, the Scheme required at least 26 days of 8 hours per day of uninterrupted power supply to its five pumps.

Opondo lamented that Kenya Power has only one dedicated line serving one pump whereas other lines had low voltages and faulty transformers during the month of May. In April, the scheme had no power supply despite the Authority clearing its pending electricity bill in March.

“Like the previous seasons, farmers and the partners who had invested in this season’s crop have lost their investment and the Government has also lost the food security objective that this scheme is meant to address under the Big Four Agenda,” said the Scheme Manager.

On his part Kitui County Kenya Power Manager John Wanyoike was unable to attend the meeting as he was held up in another meeting but promised to address the NIA concerns to ensure consistent power supply to the scheme.

KETRACO Senior Social Economist Celestine Kaseve informed the committee that Kitui County has two high voltage power lines capable of meeting the power demand in the county uninterrupted.

“We energized the Kitui line in April 1, 2021. It is therefore prudent that customers like NIA should be prioritized to ensure the irrigation scheme is operational and benefit the local farmers,” said Ms Kaseve.

On his part, Kitui County Commissioner Thomas Sankei lamented that the multi-million Usueni Irrigation Scheme that was planned to become a food basket for the food scarce county might become a cropper if it is abandoned.

“We appeal to relevant arms of government to work harmoniously to deliver this project. It is meant to be a model farm and later on it will be extended to support other farmers to cover over 10, 000 acres under food crops,” noted Sankei.

By Yobesh Onwong’a

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