By George Munene
According to Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mithika Linturi, in a month’s time, the government will have flooded Kenya with imported maize with a long-term solution to the country’s chronic maize shortage being developed in leasing land inside and outside Kenya for growing the grain. This includes 20,000 acres in Zambia and 25,000 acres of the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme
According to a gazette notice issued by the National Treasury dated March 17, the import window for duty-free white maize grain has been extended to August 6th,2023 to allow for the importation of a further 500,000 metric tons of maize. This follows from the February duty-free import window of 900,000 metric tonnes of white maize.
“My ministry has set out short, medium, and long-term solutions to the maize and rice shortage problem in the country said the CS.”
In the medium to long term, the country has contracted Kenyan farmers to farm maize on 20,000 acres of Zambian land– this maize will then be reexported back to Kenya with the first shipment expected in the country in the next six months.
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The landlocked country is ideally situated at the crossroads of Central, Southern, and East Africa with better climatic conditions for agriculture than Kenya as well as being one and half times its size with a population of just 19.47 million people, almost triple that of Kenya.
“I am happy the Zambian government has agreed to offer Kenyan farmers land for large-scale farming in Zambia. Kenyan farmers will, in turn, be required to export their yields back to Kenya to boost our food supply and security,” he said.
The program will also create employment for trained agricultural personnel who will transfer their expertise and knowledge to Zambian farms.
The Sh389 billion National Irrigation Services Strategy launched at the start of the year aims to expand irrigated agriculture in the country and identify investment opportunities within the sector.
Through a private-public partnership (PPP) strategy the ministry has set up 5,000 acres of the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme to go under private production in under a month. Agritech company Twiga Foods has also been allotted 20,000 acres within the scheme for the cultivation of maize.
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“The scheme’s development, which had been the purview of the National Irrigation Authority, will now be left to private investors. Private firms/ individuals farming in Galana-Kulalu will first be required to plant maize in the first season before exploring other crops,” stated Agriculture PS Phillip Kello Harsama.
He further stated that the National Irrigation Authority will be relegated to a supervisory role, ensuring that everything is run as planned.
The CS also advised farmers to plant high-yielding but drought-tolerant crops and invest in water harvesting equipment as the Kenya Meteorological Department has predicted the March-April-May long rains will be unreliable.
Photo Courtesy: National Irrigation Authority