Several multi million-shilling irrigation projects meant to boost food security in arid counties could collapse due to conflicts over boundaries and cattle rustling.
The projects in West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Elgeyo Marakwet counties have been dealt a blow by recurrent clashes between the pastoralist communities, endangering the more than 4,500 families that depend on the schemes for food.
Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya on Monday urged the region’s residents to surrender any illegal arms and liaise with security agencies in the fight against crime.
The administrator recently held a meeting in Eldoret with senior security teams from Turkana, Baringo, West Pokot, Samburu, Elgeyo Marakwet and Laikipia counties, where he said the proliferation of weapons among pastoralists in the Northern Corridor derailed peace and development initiatives in the region.
This year the situation has been complicated by the recent floods, which damaged a number of Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) irrigation schemes. KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos said the authority needs more than Sh300 million to repair three major irrigation schemes in West Pokot county, Weiwei, ESP Tukou Sangat and the Marich pass, damaged by floods which also displaced over 20,000 families.
“Wei Wei Irrigation scheme is one of the main irrigation schemes, covering 1,000 hectares of land and supporting 200 farmers. The schemes benefit the residents of West and East Pokot, Baringo and Turkana,” Mr Naporos said, adding that the floods destroyed water fallows in the Sh1.2 billion Wei Wei Irrigation scheme, which is expected to boost food production and reduce over reliance on relief food in the arid region.
More than 325 acres of land is under irrigated agriculture, with more than 600 pastoralist families investing in subsistence and cash crop farming.
The National Irrigation board estimates the country’s irrigation potential is at 1.3 million hectares, of which only 162,000 hectares (12 per cent) has been developed to boost food security.
As a result, it has begun feasibility studies in irrigation schemes in Kerio Valley to revamp stalled schemes and initiate new ones to encourage the pastoralists to diversify to growing crops as an alternative source of food as well as income.