The maiden planting at the one-million-acre Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme is set to start this week, bringing the ambitious plan aimed at reducing food shortage in Kenya closer to reality.
Israeli firm Green Arava, which won the Sh14 billion contract to develop the model farm, will be planting the first maize crop on 1,000 acres for a start.
The model farm, which is estimated at 10, 000 acres, is being used as a demonstration block for developing the entire one million acres set for irrigation.
“We have planned to start planting the first crop this week under the model farm, and we hope that the weather will be favourable for the exercise,” said the project manager Richard Kanui.
The exercise was supposed to start last week but was hampered by the rains that have been pounding the region recently.
Mr Kanui told the Business Daily that the first maize crop from the scheme is expected in August as it will only take three months to mature and it will be processed on the farm.
Already, the contractor has placed an order for a milling plant from South Africa to process maize flour. The model farm will guide the structure of the irrigation scheme.
The plant, said Mr Kanui, comes with a dryer, making it easy to contain cases of afflatoxin that are common in the area given its humid condition.
“This is a state-of-the-art milling plant that has the ability to package the flour once it has been processed,” he said.
He said that Green Arava was already designing the logo that will be used on the packaging material to market the products from the irrigation scheme.
The Galana project is expected to cut Kenya’s reliance on rain-fed agriculture that is blamed for the perennial food shortage by employing technology to cut cost of food production.
Green Arava expects a minimum of 80 bags of maize from an acre under good farming practices borrowed from Israel. The centre pivotequipment that is being used to irrigate crop has been installed on the farm.
Noam Ftecha, the lead engineer with Green Arava, said the equipment can perform several tasks, including applying liquid fertiliser.
The Sh260 billion Galana project is a public-private partnership in which the government will be providing infrastructural services with the investors expected to plant crops and set up processing plants.
Foreign investors top the list of firms lined up for the project.
The Ministry of Agriculture is evaluating a list of 80 local and international investors who have sent in applications to lease land at the scheme.
The applicants include firms from Brazil, Australia and China which have expressed interest in deploying technology to boost food production.