The government will rehabilitate existing irrigation schemes as part of efforts to enhance food security and value addition.
The state also seeks to establish new irrigation schemes and the rehabilitation of the existing ones in the country while calling on farmers to embrace climate-smart irrigation.
ASALs and Regional Development PS Idris Dokota says the state will go out of its way to support the expansion of irrigated agriculture in the dry parts of the country.
He says irrigation schemes will allow farmers to grow crops before and after the rainy seasons and enhance national food security.
He stated that the improvement of irrigation schemes is part of a broader government strategy to increase food productivity and security.
Dokota noted that irrigation schemes will provide a reliable source of income and livelihoods for smallholder farmers who usually rely on unpredictable rain-fed agriculture.
“Such small scale farmers are increasingly exposed to extreme climatic events such as droughts, diseases and floods,” he said, adding that environmental friendly agriculture will allow year-round production and guarantee food security for all.
He says smallholder farmers across many parts of the country have been facing a problem of food insecurity because of climate-induced droughts and lack of effective use of irrigation schemes.
The PS noted that irrigation schemes will boost the agricultural sector that offer opportunities for greater livelihoods security and poverty reduction in many parts of the country where climatic conditions do not allow for an all-year-around agricultural production.
The PS who was accompanied by Coast Development Authority (CDA) Managing Director Dr. Mohamed Keinan said this while on a familiarization tour of the Sh22 million Chakama Irrigation scheme in Malindi sub-county of Kilifi.
Dokota has justified irrigation schemes development as a way to achieve food security, poverty reduction and rural employment.
He says climate change, droughts and other types of unfavorable weather patterns pose risks for many farmers but underscored that irrigation schemes will enhance food security in the country if successfully implemented.
“Under these conditions irrigation projects offer the promise of greater food security and rural development by ensuring yearlong agricultural production,” said Dokota, adding that the government will also be addressing the mechanization and other needs of farmers.
The PS said the government is committed to improving the economic growth of farmers by availing water and increasing productivity at grassroots and urged farmers to form co-operatives to expand productivity.
CDA set up the 220-acre solar powered agriculture project in 2019 in the arid Chakama location that is prone to famine as rain-fed farming is no longer viable.
Dr. Keinan says CDA is spending Sh. 33 million to establish solar irrigation systems in Gava, Kibora and Kanduru all in Kilifi County due to increased demand for irrigated agriculture in the region.
He says the areas identified for the small-scale drip irrigation systems have been struggling for decades to be food secure with its population depending mostly on rain-fed agriculture without substantive success.
“Rainfall patterns in the region have become more unpredictable and inconsistent with the traditional farming seasons hence the need to adopt small-scale irrigation schemes to improve food security,” said Dr. Keinan.
He says CDA will speed up the expansion of irrigation scheme projects in the entire coastal region to enhance diversification and food security and assist small-scale farmers get more value from farming.
He says 200 smallholder farmers will benefit from each of the schemes covering 800 acres which would result in all-year-round farming to boost food security.
“These will enable a shift from rain-fed to irrigated agriculture in response to the recurrent prolonged droughts,” said Dr. Keinan, adding that the projects will also create employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.
The CDA boss said similar small-holder irrigation projects are being implemented in Kwale, Taita Taveta and Tana River counties.
Dr. Keinan says the irrigation schemes that grow crops such as maize, bananas, peppers, okra, onions, watermelon, tomatoes and vegetables offer a lifeline to hundreds of small-scale farmers.
He noted that providing food and nutrition security to residents of the coastal region remains one of CDA’s top priorities.
He said according to the National Irrigation Board (NIB) the country’s irrigation farming potential is estimated at 1.3 million hectares but only 162,000 hectares has been developed to boost food security.
A local farmer’s representative Mwalimu Mwaringa says small-holder farmers in the region have pegged their hopes on the irrigation schemes.
He says the irrigation schemes have increased yields and significantly improved the lives of farmers and their families.
Mwaringa says the irrigation system has helped local farmers continue with their farming activities especially during the dry season.
By Hussein Abdullahi