West Pokot needs more Irrigation Initiatives

West Pokot covers 9,169 square km, of which 41% is arable. The agricultural activities undertaken in the county correspond to the three main agro-ecological zones highlands (Lelan), mid-lands (Kapenguria) and lowlands (Kacheliba) There is currently only one functioning irrigation initiative by the state, Weiwei irrigation scheme. Another irrigation scheme, Kaminia irrigation scheme, was approved and funded but conflict among the locals and bad grassroots politics have caused serious delays. Chesang’at and Msiywon are other proposed irrigation projects yet to be implemented. Because of the low investment in irrigation infrastructure and the difficulty of reaching rural homes, Irrigation is used by just 1.4% of the households. In addition, irrigation is mainly carried out in the lowlands where pastoralism is the main activity and there has been limited conversion to crop farming. Irrigated farming has benefits and drawbacks: it could potentially improve crop productivity, but at the same time it could pose a serious threat to the water supply of downstream communities, especially during dry periods. This being the reason why Kaminia irrigation scheme is facing resistance from the locals. This problem could be addressed and potentially mitigated by regulating water extraction from rivers. Water harvesting and irrigation have proven successful in improving productivity of certain crops and have transformed the transition zone between highlands and lowlands in Ortum. Within ten years of the introduction of irrigation, West Pokot has become a major producer of onions nationally; production will increase further once more irrigation initiatives are set up in the coming years.  

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