The Tana River County Government received a big boost Friday when four ranching companies donated a total of 40,000 acres to support its ambitious Sh3.5 billion resettlement programme for residents living in flood-prone areas.
Each of the four ranching companies under the Tana Delta Ranchers Forum donated 10,000 acres to support the programme dubbed “cluster villages” with a view to mitigating against the effects of perennial floods in the county and reduce suffering.
The companies that donated their land to the county government to resettle residents of 43 villages in Tana Delta Sub County include Girithu, Kitangale, Kondektu and Kibusu ranching companies, which are among the six ranching companies under the Tana Delta Ranchers Forum.
The forum’s Chairman, Mr. Kenneth Paul Pakia, said the ranchers fully supported the county government’s initiative to re-settle people living in floodplains, who he said had suffered for a long time every time their homes are flooded.
“We have agreed that we shall stand with the County Government in its cluster villages programme and that is why we decided to donate 10,000 acres each to enable the county government to implement the programme,” he told journalists at the Maridhiano Hall in Minjila, Tana Delta Sub County.
He added: “We understand that our people suffer during floods because their homes are in flood prone areas and that is why we shall stand with the county to build the cluster villages on higher grounds.”
He discounted claims that the county administration had not involved residents in its plans to build the cluster villages, saying the ranchers had been fully involved and decided to donate their land since some residents in the area had written to the county administration to be included in the programme.
He assured those who would be resettled in the cluster villages that they would not lose their farms in the flood plains, but would continue using them to carry out their usual agricultural activities as they stay on safe grounds so they are not always disturbed by floods.
“They will be staying in the cluster villages, but they will continue carrying out their activities in their shambas within the flood plains,” he said.
Ford Kenya National Chairman Joel Amuma Ruhu, who is also a rancher, concurred with Mr. Pakia, adding that many people have lost their lives and property during floods and that the cluster villages programme will solve the problem once for all.
“Two years ago, the government disbursed Sh1 billion to help people to get permanent homes, but that money was used to build the homes in the same flood plains,” he said adding, “When floods came this year, all those homes were destroyed and the Sh1 billion went down with the floods.”
He said for the county to develop, people need to occupy higher grounds and leave the flood pains for farming activities only.
He dismissed claims that the clusters were being built on grazing corridors, adding that the earmarked areas had been seen to be suitable for the programme and would be surveyed to ensure they do not encroach on known grazing corridors.
“The clusters are not in grazing corridors. We know the grazing corridors; but the clusters are on higher grounds which have been seen to be suitable and they will be surveyed, they will not affect grazing corridors at all,” he said.
Their sentiments were supported by Martin Paul Ziunge of Kibusu Ranch and Majid Morowa of Kondentu Ranch who said the ranchers had been fully involved in the decisions.
“As ranchers, we are concerned that our people in Tana Delta have been suffering because their land is always flooded. The county government came down to meet ranch owners to ask us to give them land and we willingly agreed,” said Mr Ziunge.
Mr. Morowa on his part asked Tana Delta residents not to take advantage of the cluster villages programme to start allocating themselves land, noting that there had been a lot of land grabbing within ranches.
The cluster villages programme is the brain child of Governor Dhadho Godhana, who says his administration’s 48 cluster villages will be the be a lasting solution to perennial flooding as the clusters will be set up on higher ground several kilometers from the river Tana.
Mr. Dhadho has already fronted the idea to the national government and recently he toured development work at the Handampia cluster village in Tana North Sub County together with Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa.
But some ranchers and politicians have faulted the county government, with the ranchers saying they were not involved while the politicians said the programme was not backed by law since it had not been discussed and passed at the local county assembly.
By Emmanuel Masha