James Nyoro: Brains Behind Uhuru's Ksh7 Billion Project

With comprehensive experience in agriculture and agricultural policies, Kiambu Governor James Nyoro remains to be one of the key figures who helped the country grow in agricultural productivity.

In August 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed him as his senior food security and climate change advisor, tasking him with the role of formulating necessary policies that would ensure an increase in food productivity in the country.

Nyoro was also tasked with the role of providing strategic direction to the government that would ensure Kenya attained its food security objectives.

The role also involved improving the livelihoods of a large number of Kenyans who earn a living from the agriculture sector.

Nyoro was very instrumental in the conception of the Galana Kulalu Irrigation Development Project in September 2014, with an aim of producing crops on over 10,000 acres of land.

The new governor also played a major part in ensuring coordination with the government of Israel in running the Ksh7 billion project.

During this period, Galana Kulalu also saw the construction of 20 dams that would provide water for irrigation.

According to the Treasury report of 2014/2015, within one year the country saw an enhancement of the Strategic Grain Reserves, leading to an increased capacity by over 1 million bags in the national stores.

Through the revamped agricultural sector, the country saw the production of 4.52 million coffee seedlings, in a move that aimed at boosting coffee production in the country.

The sector also saw an increase in fertiliser access by farmers with 142,750 metric tons of fertilizer being purchased and distributed to farmers.

However, many years later, the ambitious project fell into headwinds and could only produce a small fraction of its targeted output.

Although the project was expected to produce 20 million bags of maize, an Auditor General's report indicated that only 103,000 bags have been produced since the commissioning of Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme. 

In April 2019, Israel, through its envoy to Kenya Noah Gal Gendler, expressed displeasure over the irrigation scheme.  

He termed it as the first project funded by the Government of Israel to fail in its 70 years of existence and blamed cartels of conspiring to bring it down, despite having consumed billions.

"Galana Kulalu project was destroyed by cartels made up of maize millers. They were the reason the project was deferred from the beginning," Gendler noted. 

Then-Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri blamed Israeli firm Green Arava for the collapse, accusing them of inflating expenses. 

“Since the National Irrigation Board (NIB) took over in the current season, the cost of production has come down to a maximum of Ksh 45,000 per acre, having more than halved what the contractor has been spending,” Kiunjuri told Business Daily.

Back to Nyoro, he also served as the managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation in charge of the African continent in 2008. 

His responsibilities included managing the foundation’s projects that included strengthening food security.

Nyoro was also tasked with the role of climate change resilience in the continent.