Tana River County due to Bura and Hoal irrigation schemes are making a comeback in cotton growing again with hope of reviving the dwindling fortunes of the crop. According to agronomists from National Irrigation Board (NIB) the schemes are piloting the crop afresh with plans to scale up production. This is aimed at recapturing the golden ages when the two schemes used to command 40 percent of the cotton produced in Kenya.
The agronomists said that buoyed by the nature of soils in the region and water from River Tana, the two schemes still have the potential to uplift the regionâ€™s economy.
According to Eng Josiah Gathuni, the scheme manager for Hola Irrigation Scheme, a Turkish firm is already in the area piloting for the crop. The project is very ambitious. The investor wants to contract farmers in the scheme on 3,000 acres. He said that he wants 12,000 acres for this crop since 3,000 is just a quarter of his requirement.
The investor plans to construct ginneries so that the process of separating seeds from harvested cotton can be done right at the scheme.
The ultimate goal, according to Gathuni, is to have textile industries in the county so that the investor creates more value to the locals in terms of employment.
They had an agreement with AFC (Agricultural Finance Corporation) and Kenya Seeds Company that once they produce, the farmers deliver the seeds and pay loans. But they resorted to black market to avoid loans, explained the on-site engineer.
However, AFC Manger in Bura, Jackson Haro said that the Standard farmers have regrouped and agreed to honour obligations to AFC both in Bura and Hola so that cotton becomes a success story once again.
For cotton, they give Sh46,100 for every one and half acre plot in every harvest season. Their expectation is to enable farmers to be producing three seasons in a year for various crops including cotton.
Currently, there are 3,000 acres allocated to famers in Hola but this can comfortably be extended to of 4,700 acres. However, overall, the scheme has extension capacity of 12,500 acres if new infrastructure to abstract water from River Tana is set up. To achieve this, the scheme is now through with the design stage of setting up a gravity intake to phase out the expensive diesel pump system.
The design has been completed and they are now looking for funds to implement through exchequer. If they can manage public-private partnership it will be even better, said Eng Gathuni.
This will match the ongoing project in Bura Irrigation scheme where a contractor is already putting up a gravity intake at Sh7.3 billion. The plan is to abandon diesel pump intake that costs Sh3 million every month by March next year.
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