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Excitement is in the air. Mwea rice farmers have a reason to smile as Thiba Dam, which will supplement water supply to the scheme is nearing completion. When this dream is finally realised and waters are channelled to the scheme, it will dovetail with the National Irrigation Authority’s commitment to help famers increase yields.

Farmers here cite several challenges in producing the crop. “Every year, we experience water shortages, water is rationed during distribution, our crop is suffering and we do not have enough water” Mr. Peter Muriithi, a farmer in Mwea Irrigation Scheme, says.

Speaking in Kabare Ward in Kirinyaga County while inspecting the progress of Thiba Dam and Mwea Irrigation Expansion Area, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, C.G.H, stated that the dam will be a game-changer once completed and the Big Four Agenda pillar on food security and nutrition will increase exponentially. He further stated that Thiba Dam will provide enough water to enable the famers in Mwea to practice double-cropping.

In line with building a robust economy in Kirinyaga County, the construction materials and labour are being procured from the region, creating many job opportunities. “Through this job, I earn a decent livelihood and I can afford to pay education expenses for my siblings,” Mary Charles, a bulldozer operator in Thiba Dam, says.

“Being a woman in this androcentric work environment can sometimes be difficult, but this job has made me stand out in my career through my work ethic and professionalism. It has also helped me break some stereotypes at work and take care of my family and myself. I appreciate how this project has empowered women in Kirinyaga County,” shares Tabitha Njeri, an excavator operator at the Thiba Dam site.

Thiba Dam has a target capacity of 15.6 million cubic metres that is expected to stabilise water supply to the 25,000 acres in Mwea Irrigation Scheme and an additional 10,000 acres in the Mutithi expansion area. As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility under this dam project, the Authority will establish additional small-scale schemes to command around 1,200 acres.

Once the dam is completed, farmers will practise double cropping to increase rice production from 114,000 to 200,000 metric tonnes, thus increasing the value of rice from KSh10 billion to KSh18 billion and expanding into horticultural crops valued at KSh2.96 billion per annum.

It is expected to increase the number of direct jobs from 125,000 to 175,000.