LESSONS FROM ISRAEL: ROADMAP TO ATTAINING FOOD SECURITY IN KENYA
By Fwamba NC Fwamba
Water management is one of the most developing subjects across the world. Less than 0.5 percent of the worldâ€™s water is available for use and is currently decreasing. The population and need for the quality of life is rising.
Israel, a state formed and recognized by the United Nations in 1947, as a country is the world leader in water recycling .In spite of more than half of the land area being a desert, today, Israel is one of the worldâ€™s major exporters of fresh agricultural produce through industrial technologies.
Until 1970s, Israel suffered many bouts of droughts that provoked need for developing technology that would not only see Israel have industrially processed fresh water by desalination through the process of reverse osmosis but also use the same fresh water for domestic consumption, irrigation and export. Israel currently produces 95 percent of its own food requirements as a result of these efforts. Itâ€™s remarkable that 89% of Israelâ€™s waste water is recycled and used for agriculture.
Israel has focussed on overall water management, to increase availability of water through the desalination technology, exploration of water resources, recycling, waste water treatment plants, leakage control systems and distribution management.
Israelâ€™s dependence on rainwater has declined due to the production capacity of the desalination plants, as well as increased use of purified waste water for agricultural irrigation.
The countryâ€™s top five desalination plants include Hadera, Sorek, Palmachim, Ashkelon and Ashdod currently producing about 600 million cubic metres of fresh water per year. Apart from exporting water to many other countries, Israel exports over 46 million cubic metres of water per year to Jordan in respect to the peace agreement of 1994 while over 28 million cubic metres of water is supplied to the Palestinian Authority in accordance with the Oslo treaty of 1995.
Recently, the Cabinet Secretary for Water and Irrigation Eugene Wamalwa led a government delegation to Israel to review and benchmark Israelâ€™s best practices in desalination, irrigation and waste water management systems. The delegation also aimed to establish working relationships and make follow ups on various projects currently on track of implementation.
It’s commendable that while in Israel the Cabinet Secretary secured partnerships in training and capacity development especially in the components of learning, local support and experience expertise.The Cabinet Secretary secured a grant of Ksh2.8billion towards technical training in water and irrigation. Aware of the anticipated acreage of land under irrigation especially the one million acre Galana-Kulalu food security project, the government needs more skilled professionals in the field.
The ministry has since proposed that the Kenya Water Institute (KEWI) graduates of 31st July 2015 be given priority in the first batch of 50 scholarships that have been granted by the Israeli government.
During the visit by the Cabinet Secretary the funding of Ksh 7.1 billion to complete the construction of the 10,000 model farm in the Galana-Kulalu food security project where already a successful trial maize crop on 500 acres will be harvested in September 2015 was unlocked. The unlocking of this fund which had previously faced some obstacles is a strong boost to the government of Kenyaâ€™s own budget of Ksh.15 billion to the project as provided for in the 2015/16 financial year.
If Kenya gets it correct, the lessons from Israel should make us a food secure country as envisioned in Vision 2030.Apart from the Galana-Kulalu project,by use of modern technology,Kerio/Turkwel basin in Turkana and West Pokot, Daua Basin in Mandera,Ewaso Nyiro North in Isiolo and Marsabit,Greater Bura in Tana River ,Kitui and Garissa and Thwake dam in Makueni projects under the governmentâ€™s expanded irrigation program will be valuable to the nation.
Kenya has a vast coastline of 380km stretching all the way from Vanga to Kiunga .The sea water from the Indian Ocean is enough to cater for Kenyaâ€™s water shortages. Applying lessons from Israel can be very helpful in ending famine in Kenya by use of the available water resources through technological efforts.
Kenya has very good opportunity to improve capacity by turning salty water from the Indian Ocean into safe, clean drinking water through reverse osmosis. Embracing modern technology will reduce dependence on dams whose construction not only take a longer time but are also much more expensive than the Israel like technological processes. Desalination if well pursued and implemented will address the fresh water deficit problem in Mombasa and the coastal region as a whole where the government is currently constructing Mwache dam and Mzima 2 Springs among others.
The Ministry of Water and Irrigation has a massive duty ahead. Kenyaâ€™s future in terms of economic development will highly rely on how best we make use of our water resources. The lessons from Israel should be implemented effectively to attain this goal. It is notable that the opportunities presented through the Cabinet Secretaryâ€™s visit to Israel will not only create training and job opportunities for our young people, but will obviously put Kenya on a new stronger economic platform.
Fwamba comments on topical issues.