turkanaOne of Kenya’s driest counties, Turkana, is this month set to plant its first crop on land irrigated with water from an underground aquifer.

The irrigation scheme will cost taxpayers Sh70 million.

The Kerio Valley Development Authority Managing Director David Kimosop, while inspecting the 150 acres irrigation project on Sunday, said two center-pivot machines already installed together with huge water tanks have proved efficient after several tests.

“From the aquifer, water is being pumped using solar to the two tanks each with capacity of 1.7 million litres. With electricity or back-up generators the water is channelled to center-pivot machines where one will be irrigating 75 acres,” he said.

Success of the pilot project could attract more State funding to scale up the scheme using water from the Napuu aquifer.

“We will then invest in developing another 1,000 acres once we are happy and satisfied that the pilot is up and running to address the challenge of food insecurity in Turkana,” said Mr Kimosop.

He said cereal crops do very well in the region and they are likely to start with maize and sorghum. Orchards will also be established. Fruits that are on high demand in Lodwar include bananas, mangoes and oranges.

For sustainability and success of the project KVDA, which runs mega irrigation projects like Aror in Elgeyo Marakwet County and Weiwei in West Pokot County, won’t subdivide the farm.

“Our experience is that when you subdivide land and leave it to the community without central management, after a while it will be abandoned as it depends on the capacity and understanding of the individual farmer,” said the KVDA boss.

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A committee and management team will be formed by farmers who will be allocated 100 acres and coordinated by the authority.The land will be cultivated through a co-operative where farmers can grow one crop for food.

50 acres will be left to KVDA for the purpose of managing and doing experimental farming.

“Most schemes started by government after a while they become neglected, so KVDA has tested a common cooperative arrangement where we give the technical support for sustainability, work together with the farmer and ensure they have bank savings for proper maintenance of infrastructure, the irrigation system and water storage facility,” he said.

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