NATION AGENDA: Five years on, Galana still in infancy


The irrigation project has been a subject of investigation over corruption.

During campaigns for the 2013 polls, Jubilee promised to put a million acres under irrigation.

With less than seven months to the end of its first term in office, millions are facing starvation.

In the first phase of the project, only 5,000 of the 10,000 acres at the Galana-Kulalu scheme model farm are under irrigation. The project was expected to move the country away from a rain-fed agriculture.

Twenty million bags of maize were to be harvested from Galana, boosting stocks and slashing imports.

However, the country now faces a severe shortage of grain that has resulted in the price of flour hitting a five-year high.

The National Irrigation Board (NIB) says 85 per cent of infrastructural work at the model farm has been completed, with 75 per cent of the Sh7 billion budget for the first phase having been utilised.

Acting NIB general manager Mugambi Gitonga said planting only constitutes a fraction of the project. He said focus for the one million-acre project was not Galana alone, but the entire country, pointing out that NIB had so far put 400,000 acres under irrigation.

“Harvests have shown that the Galana scheme, if well planned, can produce enough grain for the country,” he said.

NIB got 31 bags per acre in the third and fourth harvests, way above the national average of 20. East African Grain Council executive director Gerald Masila said irrigation was a better way of addressing the cyclic problem of hunger.

“The Galana idea is okay but implementation is the problem,” he added.

He said the government should have rolled out irrigation on a large scale and not model farms.

The government projects that the number of those affected by hunger will rise from 1.5 million in October 2016 to two million this month.

Dr James Nyoro, former special adviser to the presidency on food security, said small-scale farmers should abandon maize and try other crops, while the government focuses on mega irrigation projects.

“Mass production of maize using irrigation is the only way to curb hunger and Galana has the ability to play this role,” said Dr Nyoro.

Galana itself has been a subject of investigation over corruption. At one time, Parliament stopped works on the farm.

Concern was that the contractor who won the tender for the second feasibility study quoted Sh793 million but was given more than Sh900 million.

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