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Government plans to transform arid counties into Kenya’s bread baskets

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The Kenya government plants to transform the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya into bread baskets by reducing overreliance on rain-fed irrigation and instead practice merchandised irrigation farming.  

In 2017, the number of Kenyans staring at starvation increased to 3.4m from 2.6m in the previous year due to drop in maize production from 37.2m bags to 35.4m bags according to Relief Web, an online source of humanitarian information on global crises and disasters.

In this, the seven billion shilling Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme in Tana River and Kilifi counties will be used as a benchmark to produce food in other ASAL areas such as Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir, Garissa, Kwale, Isiolo, Kitui, Makueni, West Pokot, Lamu, Samburu and Taita Taveta.  

In Galana-Kulalu, at least 10,000 acres of land are under irrigation for maize production and this has enabled Tana River and Kilifi Counties to be food sufficient in times of drought according to Kenya’s ministry of devolution.


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Maize under irrigation at Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme. (Photo: courtesy)

According to the ministry of agriculture, the country’s irrigation-based farming is still limited. Of the total land area under agriculture, 2.9m ha, irrigation accounts for only four per cent but contributes to three per cent of the GDP and provides 18 per cent of the value of all agricultural produce, demonstrating it’s potential in increasing agricultural production and productivity.

Irrigated agriculture is carried out mainly in irrigation schemes and in large scale irrigation of crops such as rice and coffee. Individual farmers have developed their own systems of irrigation especially for export crops such as coffee and horticulture.

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