Sh200bn spent on importing food available locally, PS says
‘Importers are the ultimate gainers and will use any technique to convince you that for instance, Galana [irrigation scheme], cannot work’
Kenyans spend about Sh200 billion every year to import food that can be produced locally.
The large import bill denies the country close to one million new jobs, Irrigation PS Mwangi Nduati has said.
He said Kenya requires massive investment in irrigation projects to stop the drain.
The ministry plans to build 14 dams at a cost of Sh389 billion and create more than 2.5 million jobs, the PS told the Star. “The other problem with food importations is that it strips people of their earnings and savings. You are basically working for the countries that grow your food,” he said.
The ministry is seeking funds for the dams, which will be built progressively and irrigate close to one million acres.
“The current target is to irrigate 50,000 acres every year, but we aren’t hitting the target yet due to lack of funds,” he said.
Independent research shows the average Kenyan meal has ingredients that have travelled approximately 1,000km from the farm to the table.
Nduati said food importers are the biggest beneficiaries of this situation.
“Importers are the ultimate gainers and will use any technique to convince you that for instance, Galana [irrigation scheme], cannot work,” he said. “Galana produces 30 bags of maize per acre. That’s nearly double the national average of 18 bags per acre,” the PS said.
Nduati urged Parliament to allocate more money to irrigation projects, adding that agriculture receives only two per cent of the entire national budget.
The PS, who was appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta late last year, brought to government a wealth of experience as a senior water and sanitation specialist at the World Bank Group’s Water and Sanitation Programme for more than 10 years.
Irrigation board director Beatrice Mbingi, new board chair Ekal Imana, Water CS Eugene Wamalwa, Irrigation PS Patrick Nduati and Irrigation board Ag general manager Gitonga Mugambi during the inauguration of the new National Irrigation Board on July 19