Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga says the Galana Kulalu irrigation project in Kilifi and Tana River counties was going on well despite suffering ‘teething’ problems at the initial stages.
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader made the remarks Thursday, during an extensive tour of the project, following reports of misappropriation of funds meant for the implementation of the Sh7 billion project.
“We have come here to see for ourselves because we have heard that money had been put into a dark hole and that nothing was going on here. During the tour, we have discovered that a lot is happening here and we cannot describe this project as a white elephant,” he said.
Raila said his team had seen a lot of good activities going on in the 10,000 acre pilot farm and concluded that public funds were being put into good use.
“When you enter the shamba you may think it has been raining. The maize is lush and green as if it has been raining in recent times. We have also witnessed how they are harvesting the crop,” he told journalists after the tour.
However, he acknowledged that there had been challenges in implementing the project, but said such challenges were normal at the beginning of the implementation of such a big venture.
“It is true that there have been challenges in the implementation of the project. When a child is born, it starts by being suckled but eventually it will start walking and running and that is what has been happening with the project,” he said.
The opposition leader said the project would greatly improve Kenya’s food security and called on all stakeholders to support its implementation.
He said he would initiate consultations with a view to making a decision on how the project would be managed and how the two host counties of Kilifi and Tana River, would be at the forefront in its management.
“We have resolved that we will hold more talks in Nairobi to be able to advise the government on what needs to be done so the project continues,” he said.
He said the talks would also focus on the relationship between Kenya and the Israeli governments following reports of bad blood between the Israeli contractor, Green Arava, and the National Irrigation Board.
“We do not want the good relations between the two countries to be affected by this project, and that is why we have decided that we shall accelerate talks in Nairobi with a view to advising the Kenya Government on the way forward,” he said.
Green Arava chairman, Yavir Kedar refuted the allegations that the company had stopped implementing the project, saying it was still on the ground through support of the Israel government.
“We are still on the ground implementing the project and have already spent Sh5.2 billion,” Mr Kedar said.
Kilifi and Tana River Governors Amason Kingi and Dhadho Godhana said they would work towards ensuring the project is managed by the two counties since agriculture was a devolved function.
Also present during the tour were the chairman of the National Irrigation Board, Eng. Joshua Toro and members of the Agriculture Committee of the National Assembly led by chairman Adan Haji.