By Mahenzo Baha
Government spokesman retired Col. Cyrus Oguna has reaffirmed Kenyans that the government is doing so well as far as development track record is concerned.
Oguna has however challenged government’s critics to make good of their free time and tour the country to witness development records before lambasting it with ignorance and lack of information from the grassroots.
Many of the people, according to him, claim the government had abandoned the Big Four Agenda without providing tangible evidence to back their claims but relying on hearsay or social media as their source of information.
Speaking at Galana/Kulalu Food Security Project in Kilifi and Tana River Counties on February 5, the Colonel said the government’s development agenda was on course in every part of the country.
“We urge those who are criticising the government from their big offices in Nairobi to go to the country-side and see for themselves what is actually happening, because truly, work is going on,” he added.
The spokesman gave the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), which has been working on the food security project’s model farm, a thumbs-up, saying he was impressed and satisfied by what he saw on the ground.
He said the government was committed to ensuring food security in the country, noting that no country cannot claim to be progressing if it is not self-sufficient on food production.
Dr. Raphael Wanjogu, a Principal Researcher with the NIA said the government had granted the Sh700 million the authority had requested, and that the money was being used to increase the acreage of the model farm from the current 5,200 acres to 10,000 acres.
The researcher said the money was also being used to replace the drip irrigation system with a centre pivot irrigation system that was deemed to be more efficient.
He added the government would also enter into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with companies and farmer groups who will be able to use the technologies developed on the model farm to produce food within the entire 1.75 million acres where survey work was ongoing.
“We shall involve companies and farmer groups as we have seen that giving farms to individual farmers has been the greatest contributors to failures in other irrigation projects in the country,” he said.
Dr Wanjogu said once the farm is utilized, it would contribute about 14 million bags to the National Grain Reserve and thus ensure food security is achieved in the country.
He also said the authority had successfully found a solution to the problem of aflatoxin in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL), and assured Kenyans that maize produced at the Galana/Kulali farm was free from aflatoxin.
Eng. Alexander Wainaina, the officer in charge of the Galana/Kulalu Food Security Project, said a contractor was already on the ground to expand the model farm from 5,200 acres to 10,000 acres, adding that a ten-pump pumping station was already running.
He said 1,500 acres were currently under maize crop at various stages of growth and that the authority would increase the acreage under crop to 5,000 acres by the end of April this year.
“The average yield that we have been realizing with this crop 2,800 to 3,200 kilograms per acre and we are very hopeful that with the utilization of irrigation water application, and the application of pesticides, we shall be able to increase the yield to between eight to 12 tonnes per hectare,” he said.
He said the authority was also demonstrating the growing of other crops such as biotechnology (BT) cotton and fruit crops using various technologies which would then be adopted by private entities and individuals who will be allocated farms within the project land.
He said the authority intended to construct a 600 million litre dam to store water from the River Galana, noting that with the dam, NIA would be able to open up all the irrigable areas of the farm and thus boost the strategic grain reserve by 14 million bags.
Malindi Deputy County Commissioner Thuo Ngugi said the Galana/Kulalu project had also led to the development of other infrastructure such as the tarmacking of the Malindi-Sala Gate road, the Baricho Bridge and the Sabaki-Marafa-Sosoni road.
He said there were plans to connect the project area with electricity from the national grid to help with irrigation activities that have been going on using diesel-run generators that had proved to be costly.