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Cash hitch likely to dent ministry’s food supply plan

The Ministry of Water needs Sh6.2 billion to complete irrigation projects.

Yet out of the requested Sh3 billion in the coming financial year, only Sh280 million was allocated, further denting the war on hunger that is now a national disaster.

The projects were to be set up after Parliament asked the ministry to develop 2,000 acres under irrigation in each constituency.

“The ministry will experience difficulties in achieving critical targets based on the current level of funding,” Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa told the National Assembly’s agriculture committee during a scrutiny of the ministry’s budget for the next financial year.

The Cabinet Secretary appealed to Parliament to increase the budget to provide additional funds for irrigation, food production, economic growth and job creation.

He said the ministry was allocated Sh40 million against its budget of Sh561 million for rehabilitation of irrigation projects damaged by heavy rains.

In total, the department of irrigation has been allocated Sh13.163 billion, representing 27 per cent of the Sh48.8 billion the ministry had asked for.

Some Sh12.2 billion will be used on development expenditure and Sh955 million for recurrent expenditure against a target of Sh48.8 billion.

Mr Wamalwa said the ministry has over the past four years implemented over 200 irrigation projects, especially in arid and semi-arid regions, at a cost of Sh30 billion.

Nationally, he said, the area under irrigation increased from 354,775 acres to 474,775 acres, with over 200,000 farmers using the system on an extra 120,000 acres.

The projects include the Galana-Kulalu Food production scheme and others under the National Expanded Irrigation and Smallholder Irrigation Development Programmes.

Mr Wamalwa said Sh615 million out of the Sh885 million required for the Galana-Kulalu project signed on August 20, 2014 is inadequate to cover the cost of training, supervision, bush clearing and repair of access roads.

In the last season 2,500 acres were planted with maize and 103,000 bags of 50kg have been harvested from 2,000 acres.

“Harvesting is still going on in the remaining 500 acres. It is being distributed as food relief in Coast region,” Mr Wamalwa said.

He added that the government and Israel will build an agriculture training centre.

On Wednesday, Mr Wamalwa, accompanied by Israel Ambassador Yahel Vilan and Head of Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation Gil Haskel, said the facility would improve water use through irrigation.

Ambassador Haskel confirmed that a technical team from Israel would visit Kenya to spearhead the construction of a drought resilient agricultural centre at Mwea Irrigation Scheme, ahead of the first intake of students by next year.

“In the next few weeks, the team from Israel will start the process. It will take less than a year, but we are ready to start immediately,” he said.

The centre, he added, will increase capacity locally. Israel will send its experts to share success stories and technologies that have enabled the country fight off hunger over the years.

BUILDING RESILIENCE

Mr Wamalwa underscored the importance of close ties between the two countries, saying training is critical to tackle food shortage.

“Kenya is facing drought due to little or no rain. We must find ways of dealing with this and build resilience,” he said.

Already, Israel has disbursed to Kenya Sh150 million for short-term measures including water trucking and digging bore holes to mitigate against the ongoing drought.

“Israel suffers from lack of rain but exports huge amounts of fresh vegetables to markets in Europe due to use of desert and drought resilient agriculture,” said Ambassador Haskel.

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