Fresh produce traders appeal for funds to boost irrigation
Posted Thursday, June 28 2012 at 20:33
Horticulture traders in the North Rift are appealing for more funds to build and repair dams to improve water harvesting. This will boost irrigation, they said.
Ahmed Mohammed, the managing director of Canken International, an exporter of fruits and vegetables, said farmers incur preventable losses during dry seasons due to poor water supply.
The region, he said, had the potential to produce and export more but rain-fed agriculture was unpredictable.
“Rain fed agriculture is no longer profitable and that is why investing in irrigation is top of our priorities,” said Mr Mohammed.
In the 2012/13 Budget read two weeks ago, Finance minister Njeru Githae allocated Sh8 billion for irrigation, almost the same amount given to the sub-sector in the ending financial year.
From next month, the focus will be drip irrigation after an outcry — especially the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture— that flood irrigation was outdated.
Mr Mohammed said drip irrigation was better for horticultural crops. A lot of water evaporates under flood irrigation as the water is usually pumped through gravity.
The MD said business associations in the North Rift were aiming at larger volumes of horticultural produce to meet requirements for direct flights from Eldoret International Airport.
Canken is in partnership with Kenya Horticultural Competitiveness Programme (KHCP) to implement the project targeting 18,000 farmers in the next three years.
More than 6,000 farmers have registered for the pilot programme to promote irrigation to cushion farmers against rain-related losses.
During the rainy seasons, the company exports between 12 tonnes and 15 tonnes of produce per week.
Due to the low season, exporters of vegetables and fruits from the region go through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to meet the required tonnage.
“Our target is to produce at least 40 tonnes per week to be able to have direct flights from this airport to the Middle East. This is why we have to invest in additional water sources because this is our greatest challenge,” said Mr Mohammed.