The Coast Development Authority (CDA) is expanding the multi-million shilling Chakama Irrigation scheme in Malindi sub-county of Kilifi to enhance food security.
CDA set up the 220-acre Chakama agriculture project in 2019 in the arid Chakama location that is prone to famine as rain-fed farming is no longer viable.
Dr. Mohamed Keinan, CDA Managing Director (MD) said the authority is spending Sh33 million to establish Gava, Kibora and Kanduru schemes due to increased demand for irrigated agriculture in the region.
Dr. Keinan said CDA has developed demonstration plots in each scheme to teach farmers how to engage in agribusiness and farming related commercial activities.
He said the new irrigation schemes covering 800 acres are being rolled out to assist in boosting food production and upgrading living standards of the beneficiaries.
Dr. Keinan says the solar-powered Chakama scheme was initiated to assist in boosting food production and upgrading living standards of the residents in the arid location.
He noted that providing food and nutrition security to residents of the coastal region remains one of CDAs top most goals.
“Smallholder farmers across the coastal region have been facing food insecurity as a result of climate-induced droughts and lack of effective use of irrigation schemes,” he said, adding that the adoption of small-scale irrigation schemes and value addition projects is essential in the eradication of poverty and improving food security.
The CDA MD said similar small-holder irrigation projects are being implemented in Kwale, Taita Taveta and Tana River counties.
He says lack of irrigated agriculture puts at risk the livelihoods of hundreds of smallholder farmers who remain hostage to climate variability.
“To address these threats CDA is setting ambitious targets for irrigation expansion and increased farm productivity,” said Dr. Keinan adding that agriculture is often greatly hampered due to irregular and insufficient rainfall.
“As CDA we want to reduce poverty by scaling up irrigation projects which are seen as critical to boosting crop production, cushioning the effects of climate change and sustaining livelihoods,” he said.
Dr. Keinan said with the growing threat of climate change irrigation is coming in handy to boost production and enhance food security.
He said irrigation is increasingly seen as a necessary means to build resilience in smallholder farming sector and to increase productivity round the year to meet increasing food demands.
“We have so far spent Sh33 million on the construction of the new irrigation schemes to build the necessary farm infrastructure, provide the necessary pumping sets and cultivate the lands,” he said.
Dr. Keinan spoke to the media when he led CDA board of directors on a tour of the irrigation schemes and oversaw the distribution of 8,000 high yielding banana suckers to farmers in the region.
He said local farmers received intense training on better and modern farming methods and production techniques to scale up food production and environmental conservation.
The Chakama small-holder irrigation scheme project manager Ibrahim Munga says the authority has rehabilitated the dilapidated irrigation infrastructure in the scheme by putting up 9 lines (canals) for water in the 5 blocks each spaced 250m apart on the 220 acres of land.
Munga said the additional projects when completed will be able to sustain itself since the residents are well empowered and have embraced it.
“We are working in partnership with the community and have trained them in modern irrigation farming which they are very keen on,” he said.
He said the smallholder farmers in the region can double the size of their banana bunches from 40 to 100kgs by using healthy suckers.
“We are offering the farmers disease=free banana suckers and intercropping with other compatible crops,” said Munga.
He says CDA intends to do small scale irrigation farming and agro-forestry in the entire Chakama location along river Sabaki.
Munga says different irrigation technologies such as sprinkle, basin, drip and furrow will be used to grow crops such as tissue culture bananas, onions and vegetables.
Chakama farmers’ association chairman Solomon Bashiri says local small-holder farmers have pegged their hopes on the irrigation schemes.
Bashiri says the irrigation schemes that raise crops such as maize, bananas, peppers, okra, onions, watermelon, tomatoes and vegetables offer a lifeline to hundreds of villagers.
He said many villagers are making big businesses out of the banana trade since the high variety of bananas grown in the area weighs between 50 to 100 kg per bunch.
Another farmer Eunice Kasena says the irrigation schemes have increased yields and significantly improved the lives of farmers and their families.
“Farmers here continue to enjoy high farm income courtesy of the targeted agricultural intervention programs by CDA,” she said, adding that smallholder farmers have always been essential in feeding the people.
She said residents in the region have seen their livelihoods threatened in the past by low farm incomes, high poverty levels and lack of water but all these challenges are now behind them.