Large-scale production at the Galana Kulalu irrigation scheme will start in the next three years after the completion of a dam to support the 500,000 acres of land to be put under crop cover.
National Irrigation Board (NIB) site engineer Henry Ocheire says they are seeking funds to construct the dam as the current flow of River Galana can only irrigate 20,000 acres.
The project was supposed to cover one million acres but feasibility studies have indicated that the available water from the river has a capacity to irrigate 500,000 acres when it is dammed.
Mr Ocheire noted that to irrigate the entire one million acres, they would need to tap water from the High Grand Falls in River Tana, which is 200 kilometres away.
The two billion cubic meters dam will be set up on the Galana River in the next financial year after the completion of the current model farm that covers 10,000 acres.
About 500 acres of the model farm has been put under maize so far with harvesting of the maiden crop expected to start next week.
It is estimated that 250,000 acres will be put under maize to address the current crop shortage in the country while at the same time ensuring there is no oversupply of the produce in farms, which might hurt farmers’ earnings.
Mr Barasa said the main aim of the project would be to eliminate importation of maize to fill the deficit, but not to drive down prices and push farmers out of the market.
Kenya has an annual deficit of 20 million bags annually and NIB general manager Daniel Barasa believes that 200,000 acres of land under maize would be enough to bridge the deficit and slash imports from Uganda and Tanzania.
“By cultivating 250,000 acres of Galana Kulalu complex, we would have meet 41 per cent of the country’s annual maize consumption of 48 million bags, hence providing enough maize to bridge the deficit,” said Mr Barasa.
Kenya has contracted an Israeli firm, Green Arava, to develop a 10,000-acre model farm while opening the rest of the one million-acre scheme to private farmers.
Galana is a public-private partnership programme where the government provides irrigation infrastructure while private investors plant crops on tracts of land they have selected.
The Galana project will include a milling and storage facility that is expected to be set up in the next three months.
The state-of-the-art facility is expected to process and package the flour for sale immediately after leaving the farm.