KENYA – The Kenya National Irrigation Authority (NIA) has unveiled an ambitious plan to significantly expand the area under irrigation over the next three years following the recently launched NIA Strategic Plan for 2023-2027.

Ephantus Kimotho, Irrigation Principal Secretary, announced that the government aims to increase the irrigated area from 711,993 acres to 1.2 million acres by 2027, a whopping 68.5%.

This expansion is expected to boost the production of various crops, including rice, maize, horticulture, and fodder.

For us to be able to increase the area under irrigation, we also require an increase in storage. So we also have a plan to increase the water storage from the current 55 million cubic metres to 340 million cubic metres by 2027. We will do this through some of the dams we are constructing,” said Kimotho during the launch of the NIA Strategic Plan for 2023-2027.

On his part, Charles Muasya, NIA’s Chief Executive Officer, outlined the plan to increase the capacity for water harvesting and storage for irrigation in a bid to boost production and ensure optimal use of the installed infrastructure.

According to him, the target is to increase irrigated rice and maize production from 192,299 tonnes of rice and 195,521 kilograms (90 kgs) of maize in 2023-2024 to 700,000 metric tonnes of rice and 300 million bags of maize.

The national rice deficit is currently 700,000 tonnes, which they aim to close within the next five years.

“Currently, the only dam being used for irrigation is the Thiba Dam. During this ambitious process, we plan to onboard the Galana Dam and start implementing the High Grand Falls Dam. The third major target is to optimize the utilization of all existing schemes,” Muasya said.

To address this, the State Department of Irrigation has identified several key dams for development, including Galana Dam in Tana River/Kilifi counties, High Grand Falls in Tharaka Nithi/Kitui, Boston Dam in Bomet, Isiolo Dam, Radat Dam near Pekera in Baringo, and Lowaat Dam in Turkana.

Construction of the Galana Dam is underway, with the groundbreaking scheduled for October. The dam is expected to provide over 300 million cubic metres of water, enabling the irrigation of up to 200,000 acres.

This will go a long way towards addressing the issue of food security. It will also help towards addressing the issue of job creation because, on average, one acre creates around five jobs, so we’re talking about creating over a million jobs,” Kimotho added.

Muasya highlighted the need to strengthen engagement to optimize the adoption of operational research, irrigation technologies, and production to achieve these ambitious goals.

This includes enhancing governance and institutional capacity at NIA and developing and adopting appropriate policy, legal, and regulatory frameworks.

The government is also focused on ensuring state agencies can sustain their operations.

He called for support towards implementing a robust resource mobilization strategy to ensure sustained irrigation development and the realization of the strategic plan.

“There is a need to address potential financial resource challenges and explore funding options by developing contiguous plans for unexpected economic downturns and budget constraints,” he added.

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