Background Information

The development of the lower Tana Basin through development of irrigated agriculture became inevitable due to rapid increase of the country’s population since the 1950s and considering the fact that 80% of Kenya’s land area is arid or semi-arid. It is therefore with this consideration that several studies were carried out in the lower Tana Basin that culminated in the World Bank’s Appraisal Report of 1977 and conception of Bura Irrigation and Settlement Project.

The project is situated along the Tana River in Tana River County. It is 50km North of Hola Town and about 400 kilometers North of Mombasa Town. The construction of BISP started in 1978 and was funded by the World Bank, ODA, EEC, Finnish Government, the Netherlands and the Government of Kenya.

The construction of Phase I of the project ended largely in 1982 and the first group of settlers reported in September 1981.

The National Irrigation Board was in charge of the scheme at its inception in 1978 up to 1985.

Thereafter, the scheme management was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, then Ministry of Regional Development, Ministry of Land Reclamation, Regional and Water Development and back to Ministry of Agriculture up to 2002. In 2003, the scheme management changed to Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

In December 2005, the scheme management again changed hands and was taken over by National Irrigation Board.


Statistical data


Tana River County  


Year of establishment



Gazetted area

12000 acres


Area under Irrigation

3500 acres


Source of irrigation water

River Tana    


No. of households/farmers

2245 farmers        


Type of Irrigation

The scheme abstracts irrigation water from River Tana about 50 Km by pumping using diesel fueled generators and pump sets with a discharge capacity of 2.7m3/sec. Once the irrigation water is lifted from the river, it flows by gravity through all the distribution system to the farms where farmers use siphons for applying in their fields.


Main crop



Other crop

Green grams, cowpeas, cotton, water melon and onions.


Current Status

The Scheme has a tenant population of 2245 farmers settled in 10 villages where each farmer has 1.25 Ha for main crops and 0.05 Ha for vegetables garden.

A gravity system of water conveyance is currently under construction which once completed, it will lower the operational costs of the scheme.

The crops being grown are: Seed Maize (contracted by various seed companies) Commercial Maize, Water melons, Onions, Tomatoes among other crops.

The current Irrigable area is 12000 acres and with gravity system the area will increase to about 25,000 acres.


Projected Benefits/ Benefits being realized

As envisaged during the scheme inception the scheme has supported and continues to support many livelihoods as the main source of food and has also created employment for many of the communities living within the locality. This has had a major impact in the economic empowerment of the people from the region and beyond since some of the crops being grown from the scheme are sold to Mombasa or Nairobi Markets.


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