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August 08, 2011

Irrigation scheme planned for arid Kenyan district

by Kitavi Mutua

Residents of Kenya's arid Tseikuru district in Kitui County are excited about the prospects of turning their dry land into productive farms.

Coming at a time when the country is in the grip of the worst drought in decades, the residents are counting the weeks until they witness the fulfilment of the long-held dream of tapping the waters of River Tana that flows across their rain-deficient region to the Indian Ocean.

The county council of Mwingi has provided 5,000 acres of land for an irrigation scheme, and the government has allocated Sh300 million for the project.

Locals, through a co-operative society, will manage 4,900 acres of the farm while Rift Valley Textile Company, which belongs to Moi University, will grow cotton on 1,000 acres. Engineers from Moi University are collaborating with experts from Alexandria University in Egypt and locals to exploit River Tana. It will be the first irrigation project in Ukambani.

The proposed scheme is being modelled on the Egyptian desert irrigation scheme which has taught farmers new food production techniques.

The plan involves the preparation and construction of intake works and a pumping system from River Tana, construction of main, sub-main and infield conveyance systems in the first phase.

Wikithuki co-operative chairman Nzomo Kakuru said the 750 members who have joined the society are enthusiastic about the prospect of overcoming perennial drought and poverty. Their number is expected to go up.

The Daily Nation

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