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Prospects for agricultural water management

Kenya’s irrigation is facing significant challenges. In particular the irrigation development rate is low due to insufficient funding (MALF, 2015), which is inadequate to achieve the Vision 2030 objectives. It indeed plans an increase of the area under irrigation to the full high estimation potential of more than 1.3 million ha by 2030, requiring an average of 40 000 ha per year including an expansion of 32 000 ha and rehabilitation of 8 000 ha. Such objective would require increasing the public funding to irrigation to at least 5 percent of the annual national budget as required by the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).

However, this unachievable objective was already reduced by the National Water Master Plan 2030 to a total of 765 575 ha based on water balance study, and further decreased to 672 700 ha because of the overall irrigation efficiency. The medium potential of 539 500 ha is retained by AQUASTAT (NEMA, 2010). The following expansion projects have been especially featured (MWI, 2009; NEMA, 2010):

  • Expansion of the irrigation schemes in Ahero, Tan Delta, Kibwezi, Bunyal, Kano Plains, Nzoia (Upper, Middle and Lower), Pekerra, Kerio Valley, Mwea, Tavetta, Ewaso Ng’iro North and Ngurumani to reduce poverty and hunger;
  • Reviving the collapsed irrigation schemes in the ASALs, in particular Hola and Bura irrigation schemes;
  • Developing the largely untapped potential of the Tana and Athi river basins and the country’s 253 km Lake Victoria shoreline.

Meeting the country’s future water demand, is estimated at 21 468 million m³ per year including 18 048 million m³ for irrigation by 2030, compared to 1 602 million m³ in 2010. However, the irrigation figure assumes that the full high estimation potential of 1.3 million ha would be actually equipped, which is also almost 10 times the area in 2010, which so far seems unrealistic or unachievable. Nonetheless, increase of the water availability for agriculture will require the construction of more storage reservoirs (WRMA, 2013), as well as the exploitation of all types of available water and in particular increase agricultural rainwater harvesting, direct use of wastewater, and exploitation of groundwater for irrigation (MALF, 2015).

From a management perspective, the creation of a number of additional institutions specific to irrigation and drainage is planned in order to build the capacity at all level from research to implementation, as well as to promote better participation of all stakeholders and increase funding of the sub-sector (MALF, 2015):

  • a County Irrigation Development Unit (CIDU) in each county;
  • a National Irrigation Development Service (NIDS) to facilitate irrigation development;
  • an Irrigation and Drainage Research Center (IDRC) within the Water Resource Management Research Institute;
  • an Irrigation Development Fund (IDF) to facilitate the development of irrigation;
  • an Irrigation and Drainage Training Center (IDTC) for human resource development;
  • a multi-agency Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee (ICC) cascaded down to each county.

Finally, finalization of both the legal and regulatory framework for the sub-sector awaits Assembly promulgation (MALF, 2015).


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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