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June 20, 2019

Kenya: Lower Nzoia River Irrigation Project Works Begin

The Kenyan authorities have recently started work on the lower Nzoia River irrigation project site after more than a year's delay. The work, costing a total of 7 billion shillings ($70 million), was awarded to China's hydroelectric engineering and construction company, Sinohydro, which was selected in 2017.

The work will consist of the development and rehabilitation of an existing dyke on the Nzoia River, as well as building another 35 km long dyke.

The Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project also includes the construction of a concrete diversion weir, a 135 m connecting channel and a 2.7 km channel. Funding is provided by Kenya’s central government, with the support of the World Bank.

It is a project that will protect the populations of Siaya and Busia counties from “persistent flooding”, and it will be crucial for local agriculture, especially fruit cultivation. The cultivation of cereals such as rice will be the highlight of this agriculture. Farmers in the Rift Valley will be able to alternate this water-intensive crop with soya beans.

The Kenyan government also estimates that the exploitation of the waters of the Nzoia River will be a springboard for the extension of the area of irrigated plantations by more than 4,000 hectares. At present, the irrigated plantations in the project area have an area of less than 1,000 hectares. In the near future, the government also plans to set up a rice-processing plant in the region.

The actual start of work on the Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project, however, is the result of intense negotiations between the central government and the people affected by the project in Trans-Nzoia County, who were claiming 1.2 billion Kenyan shillings (close to $12 million) in compensation. Their opposition to the project caused a delay of more than a year. The government eventually gave in to their demands.

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