Irrigation is an age –old-technology involving the artificial application of water supplement to rainfall for the purpose of crop production. Its history dates back to more than 400 years ago. In Kenya there is evidence that local communities especially Marakwet, the Ilchamus (Jemp Maasais), the Turkana and the Pokomo, may have practised it for the last 500years. Formal irrigation started in 1901 and 1905 during railway construction around Kibwezi and large Irrigation began mid -1950s with the development of Tana, Mwea-Tebere and Pekerra irrigation schemes

 

Planned irrigation began around 1946 when the African Land Development (ALDEV) embarked on a brad agricultural rehabilitation program whose basic aim was to contain African agitation for land occupied by the European settler’s independence. The onset of Mau Mau uprising gave an added impetus to the program. ALDEV the implementing agency initiated a number of irrigation schemes using the pre-independence Mau Mau detainees as free labor. Between 1950 and 1960, detainee labor was used to construct irrigation infrastructure in Mwea, Tana and Pekerra Irrigation Schemes.

 

The National Irrigation Board (NIB) was established and incorporated in 1966 as a state corporation through the Irrigation Act, Cap 347 of the Laws of Kenya. The object of the Act is “to provide for the development, control and improvement of irrigation schemes, for purposes incidental thereto and connected therewith”.
NIB is currently managing seven national irrigation schemes namely, Mwea, Perkerra, Tana, Ahero, West Kano, Bunyala and Bura. In these schemes, NIB undertakes the development, operation and maintenance of irrigation infrastructure through which it conveys irrigation water to the crop land.


NIB conducts operational research and has demonstration farms in its research stations including Mwea Irrigation Agricultural Development Centre (MIAD), Ahero Irrigation Research Station (AIRS), Tana Irrigation Research Station (TIRS) and Bura Irrigation Research Station (BIRS). NIB also has Mwea Rice Mills (MRM) and Western Kenya Rice Mills (WKRM) as its subsidiary companies which serve as processing plants for milling and packaging rice bought from farmers in the respective the schemes.Under the expanded national irrigation programme (ENIP), NIB is undertaking new development as well as rehabilitation of irrigation projects currently numbering about 169 spread all over the country.


The Government through NIB has embarked on the actualization of the one million acre irrigation project called the Galana- Kulalu Food Security Project in Tana River and Kilifi Counties.  The current total acreage of area under irrigation in the country is four hundred and twenty five thousand (425,000 acres)

 

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