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Third Medium Term Plan prioritises water harvesting for food security

During
the course of the Third Medium Term Plan preparations, my team and I
travelled across the country, and held consultations with citizens to
understand their needs and priorities.

This fulfilled the
constitutional provision aimed at ensuring that development planning is
inclusive.

For more nuanced perspectives on ending water deficiency and
guaranteeing food security, we visited various irrigation schemes in Uasin Gishu, Homa Bay, Kitui, Embu, Tharaka Nithi,
Turkana, Elgeyo Marakwet
and West Pokot counties.

Over the last few
months, the country has experienced acute unga shortage as a result of irregular rainfall in 2016. Despite
considerable progress in reducing food insecurity, Kenya experiences transitory
food shortages annually, which are typically resolved by importing food to meet
the shortfall.

This is detrimental to development, and breeds other structural
issues such as a rising importation bill, drought, and challenges in assuring national
food security.

Primarily, food insecurity in Kenya is a consequence of
over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture, which leaves the country vulnerable to
inconsistent rain patterns, and stresses on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Unless this dependence is comprehensively and
conclusively addressed, through a monumental shift from rain-fed agriculture,
the challenges experienced in 2017, and in prior years, will continue unabated.

The MTP3 prioritises
food security and boosting agricultural production in order to guarantee
availability, utilisation and access to adequate food and staples such as maize
and rice to meet the nation’s needs.

One of the critical components for food
security, is ensuring that sufficient water is available annually for agriculture.

The MTP3, therefore, considers food security and water availability together,
and recognises that water harvesting, large-scale irrigation, and enhancing
water access to smallholder farmers through dams and drip irrigation are vital
in reducing reliance on rain-fed agriculture.

The
Jubilee government has committed to making Kenya food secure by reducing
reliance on rain-fed agriculture through irrigation, and consequently achieved
significant milestones.

During the MTP2 period, the government expanded
the acreage under irrigation from 354,775 acres in 2013 to 483,670 acres in
2017.

The government kicked off various irrigation schemes, including in Naipur in Turkana, Wei Wei in West Pokot, Kimira
Oluch in Homa Bay, and Galana Kulalu in Tana River.
Notably, the 4,000-acre pilot project in Galana Kulalu realised
production capacity of 39 bags per acre.

The first and second phases of the Wei Wei scheme currently cover more than 4,000 acres and supports approximately 3,000
households.

Over the next five years, the MTP3 will build on this progress by
completing ongoing projects, initiating new ones, and pursuing public and
private sector collaborations to raise commercial agricultural production to at
least 1.2 million acres.

So far, feasibility studies have been conducted for key
projects awaiting prioritisation and budgetary allocations.

These comprise the completion of the third phase of the Wei Wei project; completion of Lake Turkwel, Murang’a
and Kieni schemes; completion of 57 large-scale dams to support
small-holder agricultural drip irrigation, and exploration of a potential
aquifer in Turkana to utilise the substantial water reserves in the
Turkana-Marsabit region.

The MTP3
will also explore practical key dimensions and policy interventions to close
the loop on food insecurity.

These include limiting shocks and crop failure due
to diseases and pests; reducing the costs of inputs such as seeds and
fertilisers; escalating local fertiliser manufacturing capacity; intensifying
mechanisation; improving market access; managing post-harvest loss; and
expanding strategic food reserves.

Additional investments to improve land and water productivity will
include education and awareness on water management practices, adoption of
agronomic systems, soil, crop and farm management, as well as conservation
activities to ease the pressure on ecosystems.

Collectively, these interventions will set the country on the path to
food self-sufficiency, and effect structural transformation to stimulate
agribusiness and agro-industrial development, boost farmer incomes, increase
forest cover, curb the importation bill, diversify economic activities and
further secure the nation.

The writer is the
Principal Secretary, Planning & Statistics

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