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Hope for farmers as Sh7.35B irrigation project set to be revived

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The government has announced plans to revive the stalled multi-billion gravity irrigation project in Tana River County.

Speaking during a tour of the Bura Irrigation Scheme in Tana on Wednesday, Deputy President William Ruto said the government will release Ksh900 million for the project while development partners will top up a further Ksh369 million to enable the National Irrigation Board (NIB) continue with the Ksh7.35 billion Bura Irrigation and Settlement Scheme Rehabilitation project.

Development partners include the Government of Kuwait, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development (OFID).

“The government will release Ksh900 million so that the project can be completed to enable us achieve our agenda of food security in this county,” the DP said in Bura Town.

Ruto said the project, among others, would help the government deliver the Big Four Agenda, which is at the heart of the government’s plans for the next five years.

The project’s implementation progress is at only 30 per cent, five years and nine months since the signing of the contract between NIB and the main contractor, IVRCL Infrastructure Limited of India on February 27, 2013.

According to the irrigation board, the project is 38 months behind schedule.

Farmers’ representatives as well as officials of the NIB have said the completion of the project would lower the cost of irrigation and ensure continuous flow of water into irrigation canals.

At inception, the multi-billion project was hyped as a solution to the high cost of irrigation within the Bura Irrigation Scheme, but its implementation has been going at a snail’s speed for almost six years.

The project was commissioned on February 27, 2013, and was to be completed within 30 months, meaning that it should have been completed by September 2015.

NIB’s Principal Irrigation Engineer Alexander W. Kuria, in an e-mail to Kenya News Agency (KNA), attributed the delay in the commencement of the project to unforeseen land compensation issues .

Engineer Kuria also faulted initial slow rate of mobilization of plants and equipment to the site by the contractor as well as delayed payments from the government and development partners.

He said that NIB is in the process of engaging a new contractor for the project with the view to ensuring accelerated implementation after it terminated its contract with IVRCL.

NIB’s announcement follows a recent tour of the irrigation by Ruto when he promised that the government will follow up on the project.

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