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Irrigation scheme a game changer in West Pokot

Residents of Pokot Central in West Pokot County have lauded the Wei Wei Integrated Development Project reiterating that it has immensely contributed towards food security and changed many people’s livelihoods since its inception in 1986.

The residents who have engaged in crop farming are appealing to the government though the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) to operationalise the third phase of the project so that 375 farmers already identified can benefit noting that the 225 who have been practicing farming under the first two phases in the scheme have achieved major socio economic strides.

Speaking to KNA at Sigor in Pokot Central Sub County during the ongoing harvesting of their maize crop, said the implementation of the project was a noble idea since food production has been steady for the decades running.

“We have been contracted by maize seeds production companies and the returns are good. Although this farming season the crop has not done as well as we expected, at least we have a reason to smile,” said the Wei Wei Farmers Association Vice Chair Daniel Daimoi.

Daimoi maintained that despite growing the maize for seed production, there is a portion meant for domestic consumption and sale to other food consumers.

He noted that the scheme has turned the sub-county into a reliable maize producing zone with farmers around the scheme engaging in food crop production that is consumed in other parts of the region.

“Residents in this area rarely buy maize from other regions since it is producing enough in surplus for sale. Once phase three is implemented, the production will even be more,” said the farmers’ vice chair adding that many residents have been slowly shifting from pastoralist economy to maize farming thus reducing cases of banditry.

Another farmer, Samuel Sindano, noted that many residents have used the proceeds from maize farming to invest in the education for their children, hence improved education standards within the area.

Sindano said before he started farming in the scheme around eight years ago, he used to depend on harambees and well-wishers to finance the education of his children.

“The families around Wei Wei area now pride in maize production which has made many youth occupied hence no energy left to engage in criminal activities. We call upon the government to open the Phase III of the irrigation scheme for more families to benefit,” the farmer appealed.

He argued that families with more family members stay for several seasons before their turn comes to farm on the 2.5 hectares allocated per family.

“I have four brothers and since our deceased father was the one who was allocated the farm, we have to rotate farming which means I have to wait for three seasons before my turn comes which means a whole two years without any source of income from crop farming,” lamented Sindano.

He observed that during this harvest, each of the farmers may get around 50 bags of maize after shelling with a kilo going to be sold at Sh70 per kilo.

The farmers lauded KVDA for the construction of a maize shelling plant at the regional headquarters where all the farmers have their maize shelled and weighed hence one gets the exact weight of his produce at the point.

According to the KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos, the farmers earned over Sh80 million from the sale of maize seed last year.

Naporos noted that the scheme has been one of the most successful and it has greatly transformed the area leading into urbanization of Sigor Town.

“The area used to be a corridor for cattle rustling before the project was established but currently it has grown into a haven of intensive farming activities. The area is now the food basket of the region with a variety of cereals being consumed in the West Pokot and Turkana Counties coming from the area,” posed the MD.

He explained that the skills being acquired from the KVDA demonstration farm at the scheme have led to recruitment of many farmers in the region extending to Lomut mentioning that even some of the current leaders in West Pokot have at one time worked in the Wei Wei Irrigation Scheme.

The MD noted that there was a huge demand for the farms but once the third phase is rolled out, the amount of food production will increase threesome.

“We are aware that there are challenges on sharing of the farms because one family may be having many households. The new phase which is now 75 percent complete will see many residents come on board to engage in food production,” he said.

He observed that there was still room for expansion of the irrigation project up to Phase IV owing to the large water volumes at the Wei Wei River that can sustain more acreage.

KVDA West Pokot Regional Manager Peter Thuranira said the authority has been introducing crop diversification through the 100 acres demonstration farm where some farmers have already adopted growing of some other crops such as green grams.

“We planted green grams on 70 acres where we managed to harvest 15.3 tonnes valued at Sh2.5 million, an improvement unlike last season because of unforeseen pests and disease attacks. This is a short season crop that farmers who operate almost 900 acres may also venture into when maize is out of the season or when the seed merchants are not willing to raise maize seed during that season,” stated  Thuranira.

He said the area is viable for planting of high value crops like water melons, onions, okra amongst others because of the readily available water and the high temperatures that foster faster growth.

He explained that the scheme has been a great source of employment noting that many residents are engaged as labourers thus having some cash to take home.

By Richard Muhambe and Robert Kiprop

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