3,000 Mwea families to give way for rice fields
The ambitious Mwea irrigation development expansion project is set to commence soon after more than 3,000 families affected by the project agreed to move to alternative land after compensation terms were agreed upon. The agreement was reached out during a consultative meeting at Kandongu in the area DC's compound. The meeting was attended by hundreds of rice farmers.
The project, said to be the second highly funded project after the Thika superhighway, is set to triple rice production and create employment to youths and other skilled professionals. The project, signed in August 2010, has been funded jointly by the Japanese government that is providing Sh13 billion while the Kenya government will give Sh3 billion.
The chairman of the project, Ronald Mutugi, said the project is set to benefit local farmers by ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of water in the rice fields all year round. Mutugi warned local politicians against politicising the project adding that in the past some project failed after they were politicised.
He called for efficient management of the project and appealed to the contractors who have been awarded the project to consider local interests by offering local youth’s job opportunities. He added that the local community has already owned the project and urged the government to hasten the process so that work can start sooner than later.
The chairman added that those families that will be moved will be resettled at Ahiti Ndomba, Gathigiriri and Wamumu areas. Mutugi further said that production in the Mwea irrigation scheme is expected to triple and hence opening up Mwea to investors saying that Kenya will not import rice from other countries any more after the project is complete.
Farmers also expressed their satisfaction with the project saying that it will benefit them and the country at large. According to Nahashon Njau Gikama a rice farmer in mwea the expansion project will assist farmers a great deal since in the past “Jua Kali” farmers who cultivate rice outside the irrigation scheme used to be arrested saying that this will be a thing of the past.
Gikama added that poor parents will now be able to take their children to school since they will double their production capacity after water is made available when the project that is expected to be complete by December 2018 is commissioned. Kirinyaga west district commissioner Mr Peter Lelei said that plans are at their final stage adding that the project is set to begin soon adding that infrastructure in the area will also improve as a result of the project.
The administrator added that businesses in Mwea will prosper even better and schools will also expand since more people are expected to move to Mwea due to the increases business opportunities offered by the “White gold” of Mwea. Mr Lelei said that over 22 acres of land is set to be opened up by the expanded capacity saying that the new farming area and the existing one will be able to produce rice two seasons as opposed to one season currently.
The Dc added that the problem of mwea is water and once a dam that is set to be constructed in Kabare area is complete farmers will be able to grow rice and other horticultural products all year round. Lelei assured farmers whose land will be affected that they will be compensated saying that the economy of Kirinyaga County is set to get a boost once the project is operational. He further assured youths that they will get job opportunities in the project adding that the people of Mwea are hard working and this will benefit them and the country at large.