List Of All Kenya's Irrigation Schemes and Cultivated Crops For 2024
Explore how Irrigation Schemes in Kenya are enhancing food security and economic growth by diversifying crops.
In Kenya, irrigation schemes stand as pivotal elements in the unfolding narrative of food security and economic resilience. These schemes, woven into the fabric of the nation's agriculture, not only underscore the innovative spirit of the Kenyan people but also highlight a steadfast commitment to harnessing the bounty of Kenya. As of 2024, Kenya's landscape is dotted with an array of irrigation schemes, each playing a unique role in transforming the agricultural sector by ensuring a consistent and reliable water supply to arid and semi-arid lands.
The importance of these irrigation schemes cannot be overstated. With agriculture forming the backbone of Kenya's economy—contributing significantly to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employing a large portion of the population—the strategic development and expansion of irrigation infrastructure is crucial. Among these, the Mwea, Perkerra, and Bunyala schemes emerge as notable examples, showcasing the diverse array of crops such as rice, maize, and various horticultural produce that sustain not only the local communities but also the national economy.
Overview of Irrigation Schemes in Kenya
In Kenya, a country where agriculture is not just an economic activity but a way of life, irrigation schemes are the lifelines that support both livelihoods and the national economy. The introduction of these schemes has been a game-changer, particularly in regions where rainfall is as unpredictable as the terrain is unforgiving. With agriculture accounting for approximately 33% of Kenya's gross domestic product (GDP) and employing more than 40% of the total population, the strategic importance of irrigation cannot be overstated.
The Genesis and Evolution of Irrigation in Kenya
The history of irrigation in Kenya is a testament to the country's resolve to overcome the challenges posed by a variable climate. The journey began in the early 20th century, but significant strides were made post-independence with the establishment of schemes like the Mwea and Perkerra. These early initiatives laid the groundwork for a systematic approach to water management, aimed at enhancing food security and reducing reliance on rain-fed agriculture.
The government, along with private sector stakeholders, has played a pivotal role in expanding these irrigation schemes. Over the years, efforts have been concentrated on increasing the arable land under irrigation, with the goal of achieving sustainable agricultural production and ensuring food security for Kenya's rapidly growing population. This has led to the development and expansion of several key irrigation schemes across the country.
Significance and Impact
The significance of irrigation schemes extends beyond mere agricultural productivity. They are crucial for the socio-economic development of rural areas, providing a stable income for farmers and fostering community development. Moreover, these schemes have been instrumental in mitigating the effects of climate change, allowing for year-round farming and reducing the vulnerability of farmers to droughts and other climatic uncertainties.
The government's commitment is evident in the National Expanded Irrigation Programme, which aims to increase the area under irrigation. The programme is aligned with Kenya Vision 2030 and seeks to leverage irrigation as a key driver of socio-economic development, poverty reduction, and environmental sustainability. By focusing on both the expansion of existing schemes and the creation of new ones, Kenya aspires to unlock the full potential of its agricultural sector.
Major Irrigation Schemes and Their Impact
1. Mwea Irrigation Scheme
Situated in Kirinyaga County, the Mwea Irrigation Scheme is one of the largest and most successful rice production areas in Kenya. Covering over 10,000 acres, it leverages the waters of the Thiba and Nyamindi rivers to cultivate rice, the scheme's primary crop. Rice is the mainstay of Mwea, with the scheme being synonymous with the production of high-quality paddy. The scheme's success has not only bolstered Kenya's food security but also significantly contributed to the local economy, providing employment and livelihoods to thousands of farmers and associated workers.
2. Perkerra Irrigation Scheme
Located in Baringo County, Perkerra spans approximately 5,800 acres. It represents a key initiative in harnessing the waters of River Perkerra for agriculture, initiated in 1956. Maize is the principal crop, with farmers also cultivating green grams, beans, cowpeas, and sorghum. The scheme is pivotal in ensuring food security and supporting the livelihoods of over 1,600 households in the region.
3. Bunyala Irrigation Scheme
Nestled in Busia County, Bunyala began operations in 1959, initially covering 534 acres. Today, it spans over 3,126 acres, with ambitious plans for further expansion. Rice is the primary crop, supported by pulses and horticultural crops. The scheme plays a critical role in the local economy, producing over 10,000 tons of rice annually and supporting approximately 2,500 farmers.
4. Bura Irrigation Scheme
Bura is located in Tana River County, with an area of 12,000 acres designated for irrigation, although currently, 3,500 acres are under cultivation. Diverse crops including maize, rice, cowpeas, watermelon, tomatoes, bulb onions, and cotton are grown here. The scheme is integral to the economic well-being of the local community, providing a variety of agricultural products and employment opportunities.
5. Ahero Irrigation Scheme
Ahero sits in the fertile Kano plains of Kisumu County, covering 4,176 acres. Established in 1966, it supports around 2,000 farmers. While rice is the main crop, the scheme also supports the cultivation of soybeans, maize, watermelon, tomatoes, sorghum, and cowpeas. The diverse crop portfolio underscores Ahero's role in enhancing food diversity and security.
6. West Kano Irrigation Scheme
This scheme is also located in the Kano plains of Kisumu County, adjacent to Lake Victoria, covering 4,450 acres. It was established in 1974 to optimize the agricultural potential of the region. West Kano is primarily known for rice cultivation but also produces other crops, supporting the livelihoods of 836 farmers. The scheme benefits from the proximity to Lake Victoria for its water supply.
Crops Grown and Their Economic Impact
The irrigation schemes spread across Kenya are not just marvels of agricultural engineering; they are the bedrock of the nation's food security and economic stability. Through the cultivation of a variety of crops, these schemes support the livelihoods of thousands of Kenyans and contribute significantly to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Rice is the cornerstone crop of several major irrigation schemes in Kenya, notably the Mwea, Ahero, and West Kano schemes. Kenya's rice production has seen a steady increase over the years thanks to the expansion and efficiency of these schemes. The Mwea Irrigation Scheme, for example, is renowned for its high-quality paddy, contributing significantly to Kenya's annual rice production. This not only meets the local demand but also reduces the country's reliance on rice imports.
Maize, another staple crop, is extensively cultivated in schemes such as Perkerra and Bura. As the primary food crop for the majority of Kenyans, maize production is crucial for food security. The irrigation schemes have ensured a consistent supply of maize even in times of erratic rainfall, stabilizing maize prices in the market and supporting the economy at large.
Beyond the staples, irrigation schemes have enabled the cultivation of a variety of horticultural crops, including tomatoes, onions, watermelons, and green leafy vegetables. These crops not only diversify the diets of Kenyans but also contribute to the country's export earnings. The horticultural sector has been identified as a key driver of economic growth, with irrigation schemes providing the water resources necessary for year-round cultivation.
The impact of these crops extends far beyond the fields in which they are grown. By ensuring food security, they play a direct role in stabilizing the country's food prices and reducing import bills. Additionally, the agricultural sector, buoyed by successful irrigation, contributes to about 33% of Kenya's GDP and employs more than 40% of the population.
Employment opportunities created by these irrigation schemes, both directly in agriculture and indirectly in support services, are vital for rural development. The schemes have also stimulated the growth of ancillary industries such as agro-processing, transportation, and retail, further contributing to the economic tapestry of the nation.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can one access the benefits of irrigation schemes in Kenya?
Access to irrigation schemes typically involves engagement with the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) or local agricultural offices. Farmers may need to participate in cooperative societies or groups to benefit from these schemes, ensuring equitable water distribution and resource management.
2. What are the main benefits of participating in an irrigation scheme?
The benefits include assured water supply for crops, increased agricultural productivity, and year-round farming capabilities. This not only enhances food security but also boosts farmers' incomes and livelihoods by enabling multiple planting seasons and diversifying crop production.
3. What challenges do irrigation schemes in Kenya face?
Challenges include water management issues, funding constraints for expansion and maintenance, and the impact of climate change on water resources. Additionally, some farmers face difficulties accessing the schemes due to land ownership issues or lack of information.