The National Irrigation Authority (NIA) requires about Sh700 million to complete phase one of the Galana/Kulalu Food Security Project, the National Development Implementation Technical Committee (NDITC) has said.
Committee Chairman Dr. Karanja Kibicho said that the authority had already put 5,200 acres in the first phase into use and said the committee would recommend that the National Treasury releases the funds for the completion of the phase before the entire project is handed over to the private sector for full implementation.
Speaking after leading the committee on an extensive fact-finding tour of the 10,000-acre model farm of the project situated in Kilifi and Tana river Counties Wednesday, Mr. Kibicho said the committee was impressed with the implementation so far and lauded the NIA for the efforts.
“We are aware that the core mandate of the National Irrigation Authority is not to do agriculture. They have just taken effort to demonstrate, using this farm, that this is a viable project where they have even been able to calculate the cost of production and the expected outcome,” he said.
The NIA took over the project from Green Arava, a contractor from Israel, following contractual disagreements, which Dr. Kibicho declined to discuss in detail saying the committee’s mission was not to evaluate the contractor.
“We have not come here to evaluate the contractor. We have come here to evaluate the suitability of the project; but we are also aware that there have been issues between the client and the contractor that have led to the slow pace of this project’s implementation and also some suspected loss of revenue,” he said.
He said the NDITC would leave the matter of contractual obligations to the State Department of Water.
“However, we are also aware that the contractor is not on site. He moved out because he has been unable to deliver the fullest contractual obligations that has obviously led to the 4,800 acres incomplete,” he said.
Dr. Kibicho said contrary to reports that the project was a white elephant, the committee had noted that the project was progressing on well and that it was viable, an indication that his committee would give a favourable recommendation to the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee (NDICCC).
“This is a fact-finding mission where we had been directed by the cabinet committee that takes care of the implementation of projects to come here and evaluate whether the project is viable for continuation or not because there is heavy investment in it,” he told journalists at the end of the tour.
He said although phase one of the project was to put 10,000 out of the projected more than 1.2 million acres into use, full utilization of the water in the Galana River is able to support the opening up of at least 20,000 acres.
“Generally, we are happy as Principal Secretaries. After this, we will be able to make our own analysis and conclusion and do a full report as to whether this project is viable and ready to be transferred to the private sector,” Dr. Kibicho, who is also Interior Principal Secretary, said.
The committee toured part of the 5,200 acres already under irrigation and were able to see maize crops in different stages of development as well as piloting projects for bananas, BT cotton, pineapples, coconuts, cashew nuts and pawpaw.
According to the NIA, the project is utilizing the installed irrigation infrastructure comprising 20 centre pivots covering 3,300 acres, while 1,800 acres are under drip irrigation for the production of maize and other high value crops.
The other Principal Secretaries who accompanied Dr. Kibicho were Prof Hamad Boga (Agriculture), Amb. Macharia Kamau (Foreign Affairs), Dr. Chris Kiptoo (Environment and Forestry), Eng. Francis Gitau (Infrastructure) and Dr. Joseph Njoroge (Energy and Petroleum.
Others were Mr. Micah Powon (ASAL), Dr. Julius Muia (National Treasury) and Dr. Michael Thuita (Water) as well as senior officials from the National Irrigation Authority led by Chairman JoshuaToro, the Coast Regional Development Implementation and Coordination Committee led by Regional Commissioner John Elungata and officials from various Ministry Departments and Agencies including the President’s Delivery Unity (PDU).
By Emmanuel Masha