Water, Sanitation and Irrigation, Cabinet Secretary Zachariah Njeru, has assured rice farmers in Bunyala that the lower Nzoia Irrigation Project, will be complete by the end of this month. Speaking to farmers at the Bunyala Irrigation Scheme, Njeru said that the project has been delayed because of compensation challenges. 'You have been patient for a long time, since the inception of this project, but we have agreed as a Ministry, that we complete the resettlement Action Plan, before moving to the next Phase,' he said, assuring the farmers that the long awaited water for irrigation, will flow into their farms by the end of this month. The CS hailed the farmers for embracing technology and use of fertilizer to improve their yields through the guidance of Agricultural Extension officers. 'As a government, we will continue to support you so that the problem of food security is addressed,' he said, adding that it is shameful for the country to continue importing food yet the area has great potential for production with hardworking farmers. Njeru urged the farmers to utilize irrigation water provided to them in Phase One to increase their yields, so that they can attract government support for Phase Two of the Lower Nzoia Irrigation project. He at the same time advised farmers to engage in value addition instead of selling the raw produce to attract more profit. The CS further promised that the National government will work closely with the County government to ensure that the necessary mechanization machinery and equipment, are available to farmers. 'We have researchers and technical people who can guide us to embrace new technology so that we can reap the maximum yields,' he said. Busia Governor Dr. Paul Otuoma expressed confidence that completion of the Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project, will enable Bunyala Irrigation Scheme, to step up production and contribute to food security. 'The government is using a lot of money to benefit Thailand, China and India at the expense of the local farmers,' he regretted, adding that the Irrigation Scheme can create employment opportunities for the residents. Otuoma urged the National government to support farmers, by providing them with tractors, combine harvesters and open canals, in order to boost the farmers' potential. He also said that the County government is ready to support farmers, to carry out value addition on rice husks and stalks, so that farmers can reap more benefits. 'As County government, we believe that the only way we can support farmers is through cooperatives, so we have established the Cooperatives Development Fund, so that middlemen from our neighbouring countries, do not take advantage of our farmers,' he said. Budalangi Member of Parliament, Raphael Wanjala, expressed joy that the local farmers will now get irrigation water through gravity. Wanjala noted that farmers have suffered a lot, by paying hefty electricity bills, to get water in their rice paddies. 'For the first time, I am glad that Siaya Governor, James Orengo, has constructed a very big rice factory on their side,' he said, adding that he has struggled single-handedly, as Budalangi MP, to make sure that the Lower Nzoia Water Project succeeds. Rice farmers urged the government, to consider providing subsidized fertilizer to rice farmers and ensure that they are brought to stores within Bunyala, instead of travelling all the way to Malaba Cereals and Produce Board. They also requested the government to support the National Irrigation Authority, to improve the area's infrastructure, with a view to enhance production. They at the same time requested the County government of Busia, to purchase implements including rotators, disc ploughs and combine harvesters, for rice harvesting. The CS was accompanied by the Irrigation Principal Secretary Ephantus Kimotho, the National Irrigation Authority Chairman, Eng. Gilbert Maluki, the CEO for the National Irrigation Authority, Eng. Charles Muasya, Members of Board of Directors Eng. Laban Kiplagat and Ms. Ubar Kahiye and the Directors of Western Kenya Rice Mills. The National Irrigation Authority started implementing the Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project on June 12, 2018, with the goal of mitigating floods and increasing the acreage under irrigation in Busia and Siaya counties. Construction works of the Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project Lot: Phase 1 undertaken by Sinohydro Corporation Ltd of China, targets to benefit 12,600 farmers through irrigation and drainage services, by putting 10,000 acres under production on the left bank. The Second Phase is expected to bring another 10,000 acres under irrigation on the right side. The beneficiaries are expected to put 5,000 acres under high-value crops and 5,000 acres under rice and other food crops, thereby generating an estimated revenue of Sh4.8 billion annually. Currently, the National Irrigation Authority is implementing Lower Nzoia Irrigation Development Project, with the aim of shifting from pump-fed to gravity irrigation, which is cheaper. Once complete, the project will support Bunyala Irrigation Scheme farmers with enough water for irrigation through gravity and support an additional 10,000 acres of rice production. The full potential of 20,000 acres, will be realized according to the Scheme Manager, Eng. Edwin Manyonge.
Source: Kenya News Agency