The second harvest of another 500 acres of maize in Galana-Kulalu irrigation project will be ready in two weeks.
Water and Irrigation cabinet secretary Eugene Wamalwa said six high-yielding varieties were planted and Kenyans should expect good harvest.
"We are optimistic that the six varieties will do well though there have been challenges including the El Nino rains experienced recently. We are optimistic that when we come back after two weeks after the harvest, we will be able to report back to the agriculture parliamentary committee and give exact details of how many bags per acre will have been harvested from each of the six varieties before we now roll out to do the entire 10,000 acres,” said Wamalwa while touring the project last week with members of the parliamentary committee on agriculture.
The committee had ordered the suspension of the project last year.
The project has so far cost Sh2.5 billion, with 1,000 acres coming under irrigation.
The first 500 acres was harvested last year, with a production of about 20,000 (90kg) bags and 13 maize varieties being tested.
"In the first crop, we were testing 13 different varieties and the results were as varied as the varieties, with the highest yielding about 39 bags of maize per acre and others yielding as low as 10 bags per acre. The harvest has already been transported to the National Cereals and Produce Board facilities in Voi and Nairobi for further drying and storage,” Wamalwa added.
National Irrigation Board chief research officer Raphael Wanjogu said the expected yield of the second harvest is 30 bags per acre owing to the El Nino rains that destroyed about 20 per cent of the crop.
Already 770 tonnes of maize have been harvested from the initial 500 acres.
Agriculture parliamentary committee chairman Adan Noor said MPs were on a fact-finding mission as the project is running behind schedule.
"Late last year, we were not convinced by any standard that this project should continue. The concept was convincing and gave Kenyans a lot of hope but the implementation was not convincing and that is why we suspended it before we went on recess. So we had to come here to see whether Kenyans are getting value for money,” Noor said.
"We are here for the last leg to give this project the last hope to continue or whether we should forget about it as a whole.”
The reviewed work plan, as presented to the committee, shows the ministry has phased out some of its components to cut costs from Sh14 billion down to Sh7.2 billion.
A few changes have been made from the original concept of the 10,000-acre farm model, where the government was to do the whole value chain up to packaging of the maize flour for the consumers. This however did not go down well with the millers and few changes had to be made so that the milling process will now be left to the millers.
"In the original concept, there was to be a self-contained complex where we have the entire 10,000 acres planted, harvested and milled right here in Galana. What would come from here was maize flour that would go straight to the supermarket shelves at a lower price so that the ordinary Kenyan is able to get affordable unga. However, having reviewed the original plan, we decided to take out the concept of milling and instead allow the private sector to come in and do the milling,” Wamalwa explained.
He added that the new road map that has been presented to parliament is a phased out approach where non-essential components of the contract that were not purely essential to irrigation such as milling have been phased out.
"That has been taken out together with the milling plant and the maintenance and this has brought the contract price down from Sh14 billion to Sh7.2 billion,” he said.
Wamalwa also suspended the construction of schools, police station, the maize milling factory, greenhouses, vegetable packing and cold rooms.
“What we want is the implementation of the demonstration farm to assess the production costs before it is handed over to the private sector by September.”