HOW USUENI IRRIGATION WILL MAKE LOWER EASTERN FOOD-SECURE
Wikithuki/Usueni Irrigation Scheme sits in Usueni location of Mwingi North in Kitui County on the banks of River Tana. The National Irrigation Authority started the scheme in 2011 to enhance food security, boost income generation among farmers and create employment. The scheme has an irrigation potential of 10,000 acres.
The scheme was divided into phases of 500 acres each to guide its implementation. Implementation of the first 500 acres is complete and is under irrigation with maize as the main crop while the second 500 acres in Phase Two is ongoing. Phase One covers construction of intake works, installation of pumps, establishment of water conveyance pipelines, construction of canals, installation of infield irrigation systems, construction of offices and building an electric fence.
According to Chris Opondo, the manager of Usueni Irrigation Scheme, farmers in the first phase are now at the third season of maize production and other crops such as green grams, watermelon and fruit trees such as mangoes and avocados.
The phase is benefiting 400 households directly. Farmers in the last season harvested 4,000 metric tonnes of grains. The estimate production of maize was 7,500 ninety-kilogramme bags with each acre producing 15 such bags that are sold at Sh3,500 each. The revenue from an acre hits Sh105,000 annually. Upon hitting the full potential of 10,000 acres, the project will generate about Sh1 billion yearly.
Mr Opondo estimates the second phase will benefit another 400 households directly. A 10,000-acre maximum potential, it is expected to benefit 80,000 households directly, helping to alleviate hunger that perennially gives Kitui County sleepless nights.
People will no longer rely on relief food. The project will increase food security in Kitui and Kenya at large. It will also improve nutrition, increase incomes, and enhance standards of living.
Farmers in the scheme, the manager says, have faced challenges of high cost of pumping water to the farms, lack of extension services and access to farm inputs. To reduce the burden for farmers, the Authority is bringing on board the County Government of Kitui and Usueni Corporative Society so that farmers can benefit from extension services, tame soil erosion and enjoy good farming practices, get inputs subsidy, and prepare land at affordable rates.
Also in the pipeline is a deal with investors through organisations such as International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation.