Yatta farmers upbeat as Israel joins canal project

Reconstruction works in progress at the Yatta Canal in Yatta Constituency
Reconstruction works in progress at the Yatta Canal in Yatta Constituency

The Israeli government has pledged to help farmers along the Yatta canal in Yatta constituency with technical support on water management.

Speaking when he toured the canal recently, Israeli ambassador Yahel Vilan said Kenya has sufficient water resources but the citizens need to learn about better water management systems.

“We are in co-operation with Yatta sub-county to see how we can make better use of the canal once the rehabilitation is completed,” said Vilan.

He said one of the differences between Kenya and Israel is that water technologies in Israel are designed from the basis of lack of water unlike in Kenya where water is in plenty.

“In Kenya you do not have lack of water, what you are lacking is better management of water and the construction of the canal is a huge step forward in this respect,” said Vilan.

The ambassador said Israel, being a world leader in water technologies, is willing to help through training and building of demonstration plots.

“The canal itself will not be enough and therefore there is need to train the farmers and also see how we can bring the water closer to the farmers for farming purposes,” he said.

The 48km canal, which draws water from Thika River, is being rehabilitated by the national government with funding from the African Development Bank at a cost of Sh2.2 billion.

The canal, which was a pre-independence project, cuts across the Yatta plateau to river Mwita Syano at the border of Kitui and Machakos counties.

The Yatta canal is a major water resource used by the local community for domestic and small-scale irrigation. The canal also supplies Matuu town and the surrounding area with water for domestic use.

The water quality has however gone down over the years due to sequential use and re-use since it’s the only source of water in the area.

Fredrick Mwamati, the director of infrastructure department at the Tanathi Water Services Board overseeing the construction of the canal, said rehabilitation of the canal was launched in March 2015 and was expected to be completed by November last year.

Mwamati added that by end of last year, the contractor had only done 12 per cent of the construction works.

“At the beginning we experienced some delays in the construction of the canal because being a donor-funded project, it took us some time to process the tax exemptions but what I want to assure the locals is that the works have already been started and in six months time, it will be complete,” said Mwamati.

Yatta MP Francis Mwangangi dismissed speculations of politics delaying the canal, saying the project is far above local politics.

“There is this rumour going round that there is a political hand in the delaying of the canal but I want to assure you that those are just but mere speculations. This project is far above local politics and all I ask from my people is patience. Let them give the contractor ample time to do the work,” he said.

Mwangangi applauded the Israeli ambassador for offering to support the farmers with technical support, saying this will go a long way in ensuring that Yatta becomes one of the leading agriculture zones not only in the country but beyond.

“The visit by the ambassador tells you that we are looking far beyond just the reconstruction of the canal but improving our methods of doing agriculture,” he said.

Charles Muli, 64, a farmer along the canal, says he is optimistic that the project will go a long way in improving their lives.

“Although the construction is not moving as fast as we expected, we believe that once it’s complete, our farming and our livelihood will never be the same again,” he said.

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