Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki has said the government has started the process of commercialising the 10,000-acre model farm at the Galana/Kulalu Food Security Project in Kilifi and Tana River Counties.
Ms Kariuki said on Monday her Ministry and that of the National Treasury were in the process of identifying a local or international private sector actor to carry on with the work once the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) finalises the setting up of basic irrigation infrastructure on the model farm.
The CS said that her ministry, through the NIA, was in the final stages of the setting up of the basic irrigation infrastructure on the remaining 4,900 acres of the model farm before the project is left in the hands of the private sector.
“The process is being managed by the National Treasury right now. Already investor briefings have been done. The project is packaged and is already out in the market under the National Treasury, which is the lead agency in all Public Private Partnership (PPP) programmes,” CS Kariuki said.
Ms Kariuki, who conducted an inspection tour of the project situated in Kilifi and Tana River Counties, said phase two of the project was at 72 per cent completion and that it was expected to be ready for commercialisation by January 2022.
“The government has decided that, given the efficiencies of the private sector in terms of agricultural production, once we have finalised investing in the basic irrigation infrastructure, the 10,000-acre model farm is going to be competitively commercialised,” she told journalists after the tour.
The Water Cabinet Secretary, who was accompanied by NIA Chief Executive Gitonga Mugami among other senior officials, said that the bids for the commercialisation of the farm would be floated at international level to allow the best actor to carry on with the work with a view to enabling the project to produce optimally in line with government objectives.
“The current process of commercialisation of the Galana/Kulalu model farm is one that has been opened up internationally. That means the best bid that we get in terms of the terms that the National Treasury has set out is the one that is going to come in and continue from where we stop,” she said.
Galana/Kulalu Food Security Project started seven years ago with the intention of opening up the more than 1.2 million acres of land belonging to the Agricultural Development Corporation and put it under irrigation.
The government then decided to commence the project by way of a 10,000-acre pilot farm, 5,100 acres of which have already been covered in the last three years and have started production of various crops, chief among them maize.
National Irrigation Authority is currently putting basic irrigation infrastructure on the remaining 4,900 acres, which, according to Ms Kariuki, is at 72 per cent level of completion and will be ready in the next three months.
The Cabinet Secretary noted that the Galana/Kulalu Food Security Project was one of the government’s initiatives aimed at increasing land under irrigation from the about 540,000 acres in the country to more than 1 million acres as envisaged under the Vision 2030 economic blue print.
“This is part of the government’s vision of putting more land under irrigation. Our target currently is to grow from the 540,000 acres under irrigation and move this towards the target of one million acres under irrigation as envisaged with Vision 2030,” she said.
She said her ministry was at the tail end of finalizing and disseminating guidelines for farmer-led irrigation programmes at the micro level with a view to giving an enabling environment for more acres of land to be put under irrigation.
“We are working with the World Bank; we have already finalised the draft guidelines for this and we will be moving to dissemination and the same is going to inform policy as we move forward,” she said.
The Cabinet Secretary faulted some senior political bigwigs in the country for alleging that the government had abandoned the Big Four Agenda, saying on the contrary, the government was busy working towards the realisation of all agenda items of Food Security, Affordable Housing, Universal Health Care and Manufacturing.
She said, for example, that her ministry has 650 projects between water, sanitation and irrigation across the country to enable food security as one of the major items of the Big Four Agenda.
By Emmanuel Masha