NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 3 – It’s not in doubt that with the right plans, a dry area such as Machakos can also produce sufficient food.
All one needs to do, is have a concrete tactic for access to water for irrigation purposes.
Soon, a variety of fruits you may be eating will come from the promised land of Yatta constituency.
– Flower City –
It is about 7am when the Capital FM News crew arrives at Flower City along Garissa Road within Machakos County.
The road is dusty but something reflects the sun rays a few metres away.
They are rays of hope for a people whose life is pegged on the availability of water and the mark of a new beginning.
The reflection is coming from ten of acres that have been enveloped by massive greenhouses, where the next big produce of flowers is growing, processed and packaged.
On one end of the 200 acres of land is a dam that acts as a reservoir of water, used for irrigation in the farm.
John Mogaka is one of the managers of the farm, whose flowers are being imported to Europe and explains how they operate, their source of water and how sufficient it is.
He paints a picture of hope and resilience over the one-year project, which has employed more than 500 locals.
“The Yatta Canal is the lifeline of this flower farm and the entire constituency,” Mogaka said of the Sh2.2 billion project.
According to Mogaka, it is with the now assured flow of water along the 58.8 kilometre canal that they set up the firm.
Water has always been an issue in the area, more so when the Yatta Canal was not rehabilitated.
But after the canal was rehabilitated, the water flow is enough for the farm and other farmers along “the lifeline of Yatta plateau.”
“We are now getting uninterrupted flow of water.”
– Yatta Canal –
The Yatta Canal was initially constructed by colonial detainees in 1953 with its water source being Thika River.
Though it has been rehabilitated twice since then, the canal was never carpeted leading to decades of sluggish flow of water, illegal diversions by a few individuals and as a result failing to serve all the intended populace.
It is with this that President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the multi-billion rehabilitation of the canal in 2014 as a move to address the challenges.
Augustus Mboya, the Managing Director of Yatta Water Services Limited, which is in charge of the canal, says a lot has changed since the rehabilitation while the standard of living of the constituents has improved.
“Initially it was an earth canal but it has now been lined with reinforced concrete,” Mboya said during an Interview with Capital FM News.
The canal, he says is now serving over 74,000 people within the constituency and 35,000 livestock.
“Before it was rehabilitated, it used to generate Sh662 million which has now doubled and it is yet to increase as more people continue to invest along the canal,” he said.
Over 1,000 farmers are currently using the water to irrigate their farms among them the Flower City firm.
Before it was rehabilitated, the water used to take 14 days to cover the entire stretch, which has been reduced to 24 hours.
The water was also dirty, according to Mboya, since the canal had not been reinforced by cement.
But the Government has since constructed 28 cattle troughs, a move that has ensured the water is clean.
Before, it used to release “1.1 cubic metres per second but that has drastically improved to 3 cubic metres per second and the water is reaching very first to the designated areas.”
The water in the canal can be used to irrigate 18,000 hectares of arable land in the Yatta Plateau. The constituency covers 53,100 hectares.
– Farmers Gaining –
Kithimani sub-location Assistant Chief Elijah Kioko is among the beneficiaries of the rehabilitated project.
He has planted a variety of agricultural products that yields Sh11, 000 on weekly basis.
Kioko has also employed three casual labourers, meaning he feeds the three families through farming.
“I do not know of hunger despite the ongoing drought. All my food is in this farm,” he said.
The administrator also supplies food produce to the surrounding communities.
“There is no river flowing in the Yatta Plateau other than the canal. We are thankful to the President since this project at its current status will provide water for all. This means we will all be economically empowered. Without this canal, there is no life,” he asserted.
“Before the canal had a lot of silt but that is a story of the past.”
Along the stretch, the government has also constructed a passable road to ensure farm products are easily transported to the market.
Due to the water, there were consistent wrangles between farmers; a trend he says has since been addressed.
Institutions of learning like St Mary’s Secondary School are also getting the water from the canal.
“Before the canal was rehabilitated, we had serious challenges of stomach and skin lashes among the students since the canal was filthy,” the school’s Deputy Principal Bernard Munguti.
“The general hygiene of the students has improved since we have adequate water supply in the school. The compound has really changed. We have planted over 10,000 trees using the water.”
The school, he also said was no longer buying cabbages and instead they were planting their own.
“We are using the same water for irrigation of the school farm,” he said.
Irene Mueni, a form three student in the school says, “We are happy since we no longer go out to look for water. We can now concentrate in learning unlike before…more so for us the girls. You cannot be comfortable in class if you are not hygienic.”
“Our clothes are even cleaner and our performance as girls has improved.”
– Yatta Dam –
The government intends to construct the Yatta Dam to ensure a sustained water supply for the community.
Already, compensation of people whose land will be affected by the multi-billion shilling project has started, though there are some legal challenges over the amount.
Both the management of the canal and farmers agrees that the dam will be the end of the water problem in the area.
“The river will never dry while the canal will have a constant flow of water,” Kioko said.
It is in Yatta constituency of the expansive Machakos County, one of the arid and semi-arid areas in the country.