THE HISTORY OF BUNYALA IRRIGATION SCHEME
Bunyala Irrigation Scheme is one of the seven public schemes in Kenya started in 1969. Unlike other schemes such as Mwea Irrigation Scheme where Mau detainees were as labourers, Bunyala was a pilot.
Located in Busia/Siaya counties, the scheme gets its irrigation waters from River Nzoia through pumping and flows by gravity through open earth channels to the farms. Its main crop has been paddy rice that is suitable for the region.
The scheme has had 534 acres under irrigation from 1969 up to 2006. In 2007, the National Irrigation Authority started an expansion to boost food production in the area. Due to increased demand for rice, two new pump sets were installed in 2005 and two more in 2007.
This brought the combined discharge to 1.2 cubic metres per second. The canals were also widened, an intervention that has grown the acreage to more than 3,126 in the main scheme and other expansion areas such as Muluwa, Nemali, Munaka, Luwamoro, Nanjomi, Buhowa, Siamungu Nandikiny, Magavera, and Ruamba by 2022. The scheme has a potential of 20,000 acres (on both banks of River Nzoia) with more than 20,000 direct beneficiaries spreading over Busia and Siaya counties.
It was part of Western Kenya schemes (Ahero, West Kano and South West Kano) until 2014 when the Authority granted it autonomy so as to ensure effective management and seamless delivery of irrigation services.
Currently, the National Irrigation Authority is implementing Lower Nzoia Irrigation Development Project with the aim of shifting from pump-fed to gravity irrigation, which is cheaper. Once complete, the project will support Bunyala Irrigation Scheme farmers with enough water for irrigation through gravity and support an additional 10,000 acres of rice production. Once the project is complete, the full potential of 20,000 acres will be realised.
According to the Scheme Manager, Eng. Edwin Manyonge, Bunyala is working on a two-cropping programme per year. The scheme is also working on an alternative crop within the 12-month period alongside rice. The alternative crop will add yields to the farmer, thereby increasing their income and help in fixing of the soils from pest related to rice.