Plans by an agricultural company Lake Agro Farm Limited, to launch a Sh20 billion farming project at the Yala Swamp in Siaya county have received a boost after the National Land Commission (NLC) allowed the project to take off.
A four-member committee of Land Administration and Management comprising commissioners Reginald Okumu, Esther Mathenge, Prof James Tuitoek and Tiyah Galgalo has allocated the organisation 17,048 acres at the expansive swamp for agricultural purposes, giving the country’s food security agenda a boost.
The organisation intends to invest Sh20 billion in the project which will involve commercial rice, fish, soya and sugarcane farming in the reclaimed Yala swamp.
It was allocated the land situated in Usonga after the Commission held public participation forums where some of the residents opposed the intended project.
A series of public hearings of the intended allocation was held between June 13 and 16, 2022 in Siaya. The company took over the business from Dominion Farms limited, a former investor in the Yala swamp.
The investor is expected to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Siaya county government and local communities to capture the roles and responsibilities of parties for purposes of resource management anchored in the Yala Delta Land Use Development Plan.
Lake Agro Farms intends to create over 2,000 employment opportunities directly and retain over 100 local contractors and suppliers.
Suppliers will be drawn from farm inputs, machinery, road and contractors for a sugar factory, rice mill and road development.
Lawyer Patrick Ogolla, who represented Lake Agro Ltd during the public hearings, said the investor has already spent Sh55 million on the parcel and has an elaborated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The CSR plan includes scholarship programmes for students and pupils in the community schools as well community infrastructure development.
Community infrastructure includes hospitals, schools and roads.
Lake Agro Farms will also support farmers and local communities by reclaiming their portion of the swamp and assisting farmers to develop their lands and buy their produce.
The NLC panel recommended to the commission plenary that the land be allocated to the company for a lease period of 66 years.
It found that since one of the parcels still has a subsisting lease, it granted the request to extend the lease for a further period of 66 years less the period remaining on the initial lease (59 years).
The company will abide by all the initial lease conditions and all other conditions that will be prescribed with the extension of the lease.
The committee found that the approved plan of the project caters for the interests of all stakeholders in the area with room for adjustments in the form of land exchange once the specific interests of an individual or family members are established and delineated within the areas reserved for communities.
Lake Agro Ltd gave the commitment to reclaim the community land first before reclaiming the investment parcels.
After this reclamation is concluded, the communities will be at liberty to negotiate with the investor of land for the land exchange.
Yala Swamp stretches from the mouth of the Yala River and covers about 20,756 Hectares along the northeastern shore of Lake Victoria. It straddles both Siaya and Busia counties.