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’

The Star (Kenya) - - Politics Ministries - JOHN MUCHANGI @jo­munji

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.

/ MONICAH MWANGI

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

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