The government has allocated Sh1.1 billion for the electrification of the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme as it moves to make the national food security project more attractive to investors.
A report from the Treasury shows that the scheme will be allocated the funds for the first time in the upcoming fiscal year starting in July.
All the funds will come from the exchequer as the State puts in place amenities to attract investors in the one-million-acre farm that straddles Kilifi and Tana River counties.
The scheme, which the new administration has sought to revive in a bid to boost food security, has been allocated Sh244 million in the financial year 2023/24.
President William Ruto is betting on the project, which has been dogged by controversy, to help increase food production and ease the cost of living.
The Ministry of Water in January announced that it would for the first time open up 5,000 acres of the scheme to private companies under a private-public partnership (PPP).
Agri-tech firm Twiga Foods is one of the companies that are reported to have started maize farming at the Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme under the PPP design.
A lack of basic amenities such as electricity, portable water, and services are some of the challenges the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), the procuring entity, identified in a feasibility study.
Other challenges included poor road networks and inadequate financing.
The government through the NIA was expected to construct a dam starting in April with an additional 350,000 acres being put under food production.
All firms that have applied for leasing at Galana will have to grow maize as a mandatory crop for one season, then they would be allowed to plant other crops in subsequent seasons for the remainder of the year.
“It will be mandatory for a firm to plant the basic food, which is maize. After that, they can have three seasons to plant whatever they want,” said Irrigation PS Gitonga Mugambi in March.
In January, President Ruto cancelled the planned subdivision of the project into residential plots to settle the landless.
Instead, Dr Ruto announced plans to put 370,000 acres of the scheme under food production, focusing on maize, over the next six months.
The Galana-Kulalu irrigation project and food security scheme were unveiled in 2014 as a one-million-acre model farm, with the Jubilee government noting that it would help bring down the cost of such staples as maize.
The project was contracted to Israel’s Green Arava to construct and install irrigation infrastructure and test the systems at an initial cost of Sh14.5 billion.
In October 2015, the 10,000-acre model farm produced its first harvest — about 10 bags of maize per acre instead of the estimated 40 bags.