President Kenyatta might have been misled into commissioning the one million-acre Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme before its viability could be established.
National Irrigation Board boss Daniel Baraza told the Public Investments Committee that the feasibility report from three consultancy companies was yet to be handed to the board.
The board had committed Sh920 million for the consultants, but because the amount had not been paid, the final report was withheld, the chief executive officer said.
When the President launched the pilot project in January, the report wasn’t complete, Mr Baraza said. The consultants are a consortium of Agri-Green of Israel and two local firms Amiran and Enviro-plan. They gave their final report on April 30.
Committee vice-chairman Kimani Ichung’wa said it would be difficult to have a million acres under irrigation by 2017, one of the Jubilee Coalition’s pledges in its manifesto on food supply.
Mr Baraza said he was not the one who invited the President but insisted there had been progress.
“When he came, the soil maps were ready and we had the first consultants’ report ready. From the maps, we knew where we could farm and where we couldn’t,” he said.
MPs took issue with the fact that of the Sh1.6 billion spent on the project so far, Sh920 million equivalent to 57.5 per cent was sunk in consultancy.
A CITY AND TWO TOWNS
Other expenses are Sh110 million for development of a model farm, Sh490 million for rehabilitation of infrastructure, Sh32 million for a study on suitability of the soil and Sh50 million on facilitation including travelling and vehicles.
“If we are interested in tangibles, I would have thought that more money would be spent on the rehabilitation of infrastructure,” Mr Ichung’wa said.
Mr Baraza justified the consultancy fee, saying, Galana was not an ordinary project.
“The plan is to have a city and two towns on the ranch that is almost as big as the former Central Province,” he told the committee.
He added that the ranch was so expansive and undeveloped that he was once stuck there for a week because the roads were impassable and planes couldn’t land.
He said it was for that reason that the board had concentrated on rehabilitating airstrips.
Mr Baraza said the plan was to set up a 10,000-acre model farm to test the concepts the government had in mind, which, if successfully implemented, would help boost investor confidence. Private investors are expected to eventually have the one million acres under irrigation.
The 10,000-acre State-run pilot farm to be set up would require a dam. He said the Agriculture ministry was looking for funds to put up the farm and build the dam on Galana River.
The Israeli government was approached to finance the model farm at a cost of $651 million (Sh55.3 billion).