By Benjamin Obegi
A multi-billion dam project straddling the perennially dry Makueni and Kitui Counties is set to unlock the agribusiness potential in the area. The Thuake dam project which will be constructed for six years in three phases at a cost Sh50 billion is to cover Makueni and Kathonzweni sub-counties-both in Makueni County and Lower Yatta in Kitui County.
It is estimated that the dam will directly impact more than 100,000 households.
The dam, expected to be double the size of the Masinga dam, will hold up to 3 million cubic metres of water.
The project will be jointly funded by the government of Kenya and the African Development Bank (AFDB) on 65 per cent and 35 per cent venture agreements respectively. Upon completion apart from solving the clean water challenge for residents, it will also open up the area for agribusiness through irrigation and also generates electricity.
Thuake Dam will also be a shot in the arm for the Makueni County government whose long-term County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) is to improve agribusiness through irrigation.
To facilitate the relocation of the affected households, the government has set aside Sh2.9 billion as compensation with those on the dam footprint getting first priority.
Speaking during a site visit on Friday, Irrigation Principal Secretary Zeinab Hussein termed the project as an opportunity opener for the area.
She said, “Apart from connecting residents to clean water, we are looking at spurring the seed of agribusiness opportunities for the locals and environs’’.
The first phase of the project which will cost Sh30 billion, will be directed at connecting households to clean water while the second phase will focus on irrigation to boost agribusiness.
The third and last phase of the project will involve generation of hydropower where it is expected that the dam will contribute 20 Mega Watts to the national grid.
Power from Thuake Dam will serve the Konza city-in Makueni County and the planned Thika techno city.
The PS further stressed the benefit to the locals:
“We have developed strict guidelines that will guide project execution by ensuring that is big on local content and local supplies-depended so that it creates real economic impact,’’ she said.
The guidelines, according to the PS, will ensure that 30 per cent of the materials have to be from the local areas which will translate to 8,000 jobs for the youth and women.
In addition, the project will benefit more than 30,000 local suppliers who will ink direct business deals with the contractors.
This, according to the PS, will promote manpower skills development and business ventures for the locals.
On commissioning, up to 8,000 women and youth will get greenhouse kits and tanks and undergo agribusiness training.