President Uhuru Kenyatta chats with Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru during the launching of construction of the Thiba Dam at Rukenya area in Kirinyaga county

A  Sh20 billion Thiba Dam to irrigate expansive rice fields in Kirinyaga County has been commissioned to help double rice production from the current 80,000 to 160,000 tonnes a year.

The dam will see the doubling of production seasons of rice and horticultural crops, as well as improving the production of rice and other crops by expanding the total cultivated area from 19,400 acres to about 41,810 acres in the project area.

The dam will be built by Strabag company which says that it will help secure the year-round water supply for the country’s agriculture.

“The 40 m tall and 1 km long dam being built about 130 km northeast of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi will create a reservoir that will allow a second harvest every year in the surrounding cultivable area,” explains Thomas Birtel, the CEO of the company.

Part of the dam’s funding will come from the Japanese Government, which has kept its initial pledge of Sh12 billion while the Kenyan Government will contribute Sh5 billion.

The project will be supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), which will oversee the construction of the dam.

The contract value also includes the connection to the existing road network as well as facilities for water draw-off and safe floodwater drainage. The construction for the project, being carried out largely through international financing, is scheduled to last around 45 months.

During the launch, President Kenyatta said the dam was the first step in ensuring that Kenya becomes food-sufficient.

“Food security is a key agenda in our manifesto and this is a first step towards that. We do not want to be importing rice from foreign nations or seeking food aid every time there is drought. We need to work to become self-sufficient as a nation,” he said.

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