President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has injected over Ksh550 million to repair and expand the infrastructure of the Ahero and Kano irrigation schemes in Nyanza in the last three years.
These interventions have led to the increase in the number of rice farmers in the area to 7,000, earning up to Ks2.8 billion from rice annually.
The government also distributed rice seeds to farmers with Kisumu alone receiving 20.8 metric tonnes of rice seeds valued at Ksh4.8 million.
Also, Kisumu County Government has pledged to support the establishment of an additional mill in the area to ensure that rice produced is milled and packaged for sale in local supermarkets. In addition, Kisumu County has procured 3,600 meters of irrigation pipes to enable farmers in the area to venture into horticultural production and committed to ensure that 10,000 small holder farmers receive fruit seedlings, vegetable seeds, cereals and one day old chicks worth Ksh13 million as part of the Covid-19 Economic Recovery Program.
The Ahero Irrigation Scheme (4,176 Acres) is located In the Kano plains between Nandi Escarpment and Nyabondo Plateau. The scheme was started as a pilot project to explore the feasibility of irrigation in the Kano Plains. Construction of the scheme started in 1966 and operations started in 1969.
Rice of varieties grown in Ahero are 90 percent Sindano (IR-2793 & ITA 310), five percent aromatic (Basmat-370) and five percent hybrid (Arize Tej Gold & Arize 6444 Gold).
Ahero Irrigation Scheme currently produces 11,000 metric tonnes of rice per season but has the potential of doubling production as a result of expansions done by the government.
In February 2021, the government commissioned an additional 3,000 acres of land in Ahero and West Kano irrigation schemes for rice and horticultural production. The Ksh270 million initiative by the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) reopened an area that has been experiencing perennial flooding following the bursting or river Nyando.
“This is part of the programme we have for this country as the government intends to net more farmers from Nyando and Muhoroni and scale up food production in the country,” said Water and Irrigation Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu.
He pointed out that the project, that taps water from river Nyando, will enhance the government’s capacity to utilise irrigation potential which currently stands at a paltry 27 per cent.
“We have the ability to expand up to 1.9 million acres of land but are currently doing 500,000 acres. We are going nearer to achieving our target of 700,000 acres by 2022, but eventually hope to hit 1.4 million acres by 2030 across the country,” he added.
He stated that the ministry will also expand irrigation at Lower Kuja and Lower Nzoia to bring the total area under irrigation to 37,700 acres in Western Kenya.
The West Kano Irrigation Scheme is located in the Kano plains between Nandi escarpment and Nyabondo Plateau on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu County. The scheme was constructed in 1974 and become operational in 1976.
The scheme has 837 farmers with gross area of 4,396 acres. The gross farm land area is 2,230 acres and farm size of 2-4 acres per farmer. The scheme irrigation water is abstracted by pumping from Lake Victoria and water drainage is also by pumping back to the Lake. The scheme has a dependent population of about 30,000 people.
NIA embarked on the expansion of the West Kano irrigation schemes in Kisumu County in late 2020 with a view to boost rice production in the country.
The expansion program to be undertaken over the next three years will see the schemes increased by an additional 5,500 acres bringing the total acreage under irrigation to 18,500 acres.
The expansion will cover Awasi, Chiga, Mbega and Kabong’o areas to net an additional 2,500 farmers.
The expansion will account for 25 percent of the 1.9 million acres of land earmarked for irrigation nationally, which will double rice production in the area.
Expansion of the scheme will also cure the problem of the rising water levels in Lake Victoria which has consumed 80 percent of irrigable land in the West Kano scheme.
Irrigation in Nyanza will also receive a boost following the construction of Koru-Soin Dam in Kisumu, which is set to kick off after an agreement was reached between the National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority (NSHA) and the community living on the land earmarked for the project in January 2021.
According to Kisumu County Governor Prof. Anyang Nyong’o, the affected households on the 2, 500 acres of land in Kisumu and Kericho counties have been engaged to pave way for the construction of the dam.
“The national government is now working out modalities for compensation of the affected people on the 360 parcels of land ahead of the construction of the multi-purpose dam,” he said.
Once construction is completed the dam will be a lasting solution to the perennial floods downstream River Nyando which has left a trail of destruction worth billions of shillings.
The multipurpose dam is designed to control flooding, supply water for domestic and industrial consumers in the city of Kisumu and the satellite towns of Ahero, Awasi, Muhoroni, and Koitaburot; supply the existing irrigation schemes of Ahero and West Kano; and, generate power at an associated 2 MW hydropower plant.
Upon completion, the project is expected to provide 102,000 cubic metres of water per day to a population of 1.71 million and to end water shortages in the neighboring counties of Kericho, Nandi, and Kisumu.
It will also act as a sediment trap, reducing sediment build-up downstream, which is the main cause of flooding and ensure regulation of the river flow, thus providing water for irrigation all year round.
The reservoir will also offer opportunities in fishing and water-based tourism activities.
The project will cost Ksh25 billion. Treasury has already allocated Ksh5 billion to start construction and another Ksh15 billion s awaiting approval. The funds were allocated by October 2020.
At least Ksh2 billion shillings will be spent on compensation for those affected, with the remaining 18 billion going to the dam and water supply components.