TODONYANG, Kenya, Aug 1 – The government has announced plans to immediately put 10,000 hectares of land in the River Omo delta around Lake Turkana under irrigation to produce maize, sorghum, vegetables and fruits to ease the food crisis frequently experienced in the region.
The government will also commission a causeway linking the Todonyang area of Turkana to the Omo River and provide direct access to Lake Turkana.
The creation of the causeway will enable relevant government agencies to reach the lake directly from Todonyang and pump the water to pans and wells for livestock.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga announced the measures on Monday when he toured parts of Turkana County to assess the famine situation and distribute relief food to residents.
Officers from the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, together with those from other relevant ministries will be sent Turkana next week to draw plans and lay ground for the irrigation project which Mr Odinga said would change the fortunes of the area forever.
The Todonyang Irrigation Project will cost Sh300 million drawn from the Expanded Irrigation for Food Production Programme.
The PM said the Sh300 million Todonyang Irrigation Scheme will just be part of the wider plans to irrigate parts of the county in a programme set to cost some Sh700 million.
“What we are doing now, distributing relief food, is a matter of dealing with an emergency. But we are agreed that we must get a permanent solution to this problem. I don’t want to come here next year to distribute relief food. I want to fix the problem here, and move to another area,” the PM said.
Mr Odinga, who was accompanied by Agriculture Minister Dr Sally Kosgei and Labour Minister John Munyes, said that beginning this month, the government will distribute 4,000 bags of maize and 600 bags of beans until the situation improves.
He began the distribution at the Todonyang Catholic Parish, along with cartons of cooking oil.
Local MPs Ekwe Ethuro and Josphat Nanok had accompanied the PM. Others were Permanent Secretaries Andrew Mondoh of Special Programmes, David Stower of Water and Dorothy Angote of Lands.
Mr Odinga said talks are going on between the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia to ascertain the border between the two countries at the delta.
He said that currently, the Turkana who want to access the River Omo can only do that by travelling through Ethiopia after the river retreated several kilometres. He said a solution would come with the development of the causeway to be constructed using a combined force of the National Youth Service and Kazi Kwa Vijana Programme.
The PM warned the provincial administration and those charged with distribution of relief against selling items meant for the hungry, saying the government would show no mercy for officers implicated in such scams.
Mr Odinga supported calls by local leaders for increased recruitment of Kenya Police Reserves from the community to provide security while talks go on with Ethiopia.
From Todonyang, the PM visited Nakurio where he conducted a drought impact assessment and distributed more relief food. He also toured Mowlem area where irrigated agriculture is going on in Turkana.