, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 22 – If the government implements the Galana-Kulalu project as it says it will, food security in Kenya could finally be achieved.
Maize production will increase to a level that will push down a 2kg bag of maize flour from its current Sh100 to about Sh84.
Hundreds of thousands of people will also get jobs from the project.
But is this an empty promise from the government or will it deliver?
“Yes, the Galana Kulalu food security project will address the country’s food security issues. Yes, it will create jobs for our people and yes, it is good value for money,” Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa told journalists at his Maji House office.
The project has been hit by criticism both locally and abroad with arguments that it is impractical and would hurt the economy.
Wamalwa however thinks otherwise: “Did you know that Kenya spends over Sh50 billion annually importing food stuffs? Galana will stop this. With a considerably smaller financial outlay, Galana will make Kenya food secure.”
The project was projected to need about Sh14 billion to deliver the 10,000 acre model farm.
The Cabinet Secretary however says that his ministry has discussed a new roadmap that will deliver the promise at half the initial amount.
“The inter-ministerial task force that I formed reviewed the project and phased out what was not essential for irrigation. We shall therefore deliver the plan at Sh7.2billion,” he says.
Part of the phased out projects include the construction of the milling plant that will be taken up by the private sector in consequent phases and the operations and maintenance of the plant that would have required over Sh3 billion among other non-essentials.
Wamalwa and his team have since stood before a parliamentary committee to discuss the progress they have made so far to clear any doubt of the viability of the project and the disbursement of funds so far.
The government has also done two test runs to determine what works and what does not. According to Wamalwa, the first test run was conducted on a 5,000 acre piece of land that included a test on 13 different varieties of maize planted to determine the best yield.
As a result, over 8,000 bags of 90kg bags of maize were realized and stored in the bags in the National Cereal Board depot. The government also shortlisted 6 types of maize based on the number of bags harvested and quality of maize harvested.
“We planted the second test run using the top six highest yielding varieties which is to be harvested at the end of February. We are expecting that the harvest will be much better than the first one,” he added.
Wamalwa added that the feasibility study at Galana, and results from the pilot project on an area of 500 acres, point to the massive potential of Galana. “Results of between 30 to 39 bags per acre per season for maize are positive and encouraging.”
Due to the expected success of the project, Wamalwa says that government is planning to establish similar projects in various parts of the country. These will include Kisumu, Ahero, Budalang’i and Mwea. Through such a project, Wamalwa said, the country will be able to produce more produce such as rice from Mwea and will no longer need to import from countries such as Pakistan.
“We do not see why Kenya should continue importing over 250,000 metric tonnes of sugar every year, while it could produce enough sugar for its consumption and for export.”
“Countries such as Sudan and Egypt have pursued such projects which have proven to be very beneficial. For instance, Egypt has over 1.5million acres of land under irrigation. This makes Kenya’s project an equally viable plan.”
The project is of huge necessity if the country is to move up on the Global Food Security Index list. Last year, Kenya came 83rd out of 109 countries.