Israel in talks with Kenya to revive stalled Galana Kulalu

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 00:00 |
Galana Kulalu.

Israel has renewed talks with the Kenyan government to revive the stalled one million acres Galana-Kulalu irrigation project in Tana River.

Israel deputy ambassador to Kenya Eyal David last Friday confirmed that his government has had talks with various agencies including the ministries of devolution, agriculture, water sanitation and irrigation and governors of Kilifi and Tana River counties.

“The project is important to both countries and enjoys a lot of goodwill both from the Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Both countries enjoy cordial relations.

Equally, our country has invested a lot in the Kenya agricultural sector and thus we cannot allow it to stall,” said Eyal.

Initiation of the talks by officials of the two governments appears to have been triggered by high level consultations between the heads of the two countries – Uhuru and Netanyahu.

Demand for food

It will be unfortunate, Eyal said, for the project to stall when demand for food continues to increase every year. 

“The basis of the ongoing talks is to develop a comprehensive strategy geared towards reviving the project in addition to ensuring diplomatic ties between the two countries are enhanced,” added Eyal.

The irrigation project is one of the schemes the President promised his government would undertake to boost food production to feed the increasing population.

Initiation of talks comes two months after the Ministry of Irrigation announced new plans to revive the project.

Eyal made the remarks during a breakfast organised by Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC) and Bureau Veritas at a Nairobi Hotel.

Former Water Sanitation and Irrigation Cabinet secretary Simon Chelugui when handing over the ministry to former Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, confirmed that the government will spend Sh600 million in the current financial year to revamp the irrigation scheme.

The project stalled in early 2019 when the Israel Company contracted by the government to construct the Sh7.2 billion Galana-Kulalu 10, 000 acres model, Green Arava, abandoned it after disagreeing with the National Irrigation Board (NIB) over various issues.

Maize cartels

“The company is still there only that there was some bad blood between it and some Kenya government agencies.

But the two governments have resolved to revive the project. We believe in the capacity of the company and we are looking into how to move the project forward,” said Eyal.

The move almost prompted a diplomatic row between the two Governments with the former immediate Israel ambassador to Kenya Noah Gal Gendler confirming the project was the first venture funded by the Israeli government in its 70 years of its existence to fail.

“Galana Kulalu project was destroyed by cartels made up of maize importers and millers. They were the reason the project was deferred from the beginning.

This is the first project to fail. It was a government-to-government project,” Gendler said in April last year.

The Galana-Kulalu contractor differed with the top management of the NIB over bills incurred after the 2018 long rains.

For example, following the heavy rains that pounded the country in 2018, river Galana, which is the main source of the project submerged and changed its course to a distance 200 metres away from its original path.

When the contractor was requested to restore the river to its original place, the company gave a bill of Sh700 million which the NIB declined to honour.

Instead NIB hired a local contractor who spent Sh38 million to undertake the project. Chelugui proposed for the restructuring of the management of the project either by concession or privatisation.

Eyal said that in the time the contractor was on the ground, the project demonstrated success despite the hitches experienced.

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