The government is set to complete the 10,000-acre model farm at the Galana/Kulalu Food Security Project by December this year, National Irrigation Authority (NIA) Chairman Joshua Toro said.
Mr Toro said the state would then hand over the entire project domiciled in Kilifi and Tana River Counties to private investors to develop the remaining 200,000 acres of arable land within the 1.7 million-acre Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) farm.
He said the authority was spending Sh800 million to open up the remaining 4,900 acres out of the earmarked 10,000 acres of the model farm before handing over the project to individuals and companies.
In the first phase, the government spent more than Sh5 billion to open up 5,100 acres through an Israeli company, Green Arava, which later fell out with the government over contractual disagreements.
Toro, who led NIA directors on an induction tour of the project, clarified that the government was opening up 200,000 acres for irrigated agriculture at Galana/Kulalu and not 1 million acres as earlier reported.
He commended the work being undertaken by local contractor Irrico International Limited, noting that the contractor was doing a better job with the Sh800 million compared with the Israeli company that spent a whopping Sh5 billion at the initial stages.
He said the previous contractor flopped because he did not involve NIA engineers in the designing process, noting that the current contractor is doing better with less funds as he is open to consultations.
“The current contractor, who is Kenyan, is doing 4,900 acres (about 50 per cent of the work) and will spend Sh800 million compared to the Sh5 billion spent by the foreign contractor to open up 5,100 acres,” he said.
Irrico International Limited is currently setting up electro-mechanical, mechanical and civil works that include a new pumping station, new pipelines and an additional 25 centre pivot systems for irrigation, he said.
He said the contractor was also installing three 1 MVA AND 15 KVA water cooled engines and power generators complete with controls among other facilities.
NIA Director Fatma El-Maawi said it was sad that Kenya was importing foodstuff yet she has great potential to be food-secure.
By Emmanuel Masha