The Government of Kenya (GoK) through the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) is committed to completing the 325 hectares Weiwei Irrigation Scheme Phase III project in West Pokot County at a cost of Sh1 billion.
The project launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2016, courtesy of the Italian Development Cooperation and GoK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international Cooperation, targets to address food security in the semi-arid region.
Weiwei Irrigation Scheme that started in 1984 after drought hit the country has been in operation for more than 35 years and has partly turned the region into a partial food basket, with residents transforming their livelihoods a great deal.
State Department of Regional Development Authority Principal Secretary (PS), Dr. Belio Kipsang, said during a stakeholders meeting at Aturkan Hotel in Kitale Town, that Phase III of the irrigation project is now on course, citing that it faced delays due to Covid-19 and poor climatic conditions experienced.
“The pilot project commenced so many years ago and there are overwhelming success stories. The Phase III has had few challenges but we are able to surmount them,” said Kipsang, noting that the Phase has now officially started and the project will serve the entire North Rift region on food security matters, now that contractors teams from Italy are on the ground.
The PS reiterated that the project has had a great impact, citing it as one of the four key food security projects in the country.
“This project has made a huge difference since its inception. There is a maize shelling facility besides doing value addition together with mangoes, citrus fruits and avocado nurseries at Weiwei. The project is one of the key projects,” he explained.
Kipsang exuded confidence that the start of Phase III will double the production hence increased household incomes mentioning that farmers are currently generating Sh75 million shillings annually.
“Farmers get 1,500 tons of seeds to contracted seed companies meaning they are able to take their children to school and meet their other basic needs owing to the success of the Phases I and II. The farmers aim at earning more than Sh200 million per year,” he stated.
He said that in partnership with the Ministry of Environment they are dealing with environmental management owing to the flooding which destroyed some infrastructure when Phase III started.
“We are working with the Ministry of environment to address the issue. We need to renovate the conference facility at Weiwei,” said the PS.
KVDA Managing Director, Sammy Naporos, revealed that Phase III which will support 225 farmers is now 70 percent complete with everyone optimistic of improved economic growth among the scheme households.
Naporos said the components of the project will involve civil works, covering project design and supervision, irrigation infrastructure and other works whilst the second component will involve capacity building and supply of equipment.
He noted that capacity building will cost Sh300 million.
KVDA Board Chair, Mark Chesergon, expressed gratitude about the progress of the project maintaining that challenges that had been affecting the project have been ironed out.
Italian Cooperation representative, Luigi Luminari, was optimistic that the project will be successful to enable more farmers increase agricultural production in the region.
By Richard Muhambe and Anthony Melly