Kenya continues to frustrate Israel in Galana Kulalu Irrigation project

Israeli Ambassador Oded Joseph during an interview at the Israeli Embassy in Nairobi on August 24/ THE STAR

The government of Kenya has continued to frustrate Israel in the Galala Kulalu irrigation project in Tana River and Kilifi counties.

The Sh7.2 billion Galala-Kulalu food security project, one of the Jubilee government’s flagship projects, has been termed as a failure and one that could have been designed to fail at conception.

An audit report by Israeli company Green Arava Limited, which was awarded the contract, exposed glaring gaps and weakness in the initiative.

The National Irrigation Board, the implementing agency, awarded the contract to the firm in 2014 for the construction of a 10, 000-acre model farm.

However, five year later in 2019, then Israel Ambassador to Kenya Noah Gal Gendler said the project was a failure, noting that it was the first project funded by the Israeli government in its 70 years of its existence to fail.

“Galana Kulalu project was destroyed by cartels made up of maize importers and millers. They were the reason the project was deferred from the beginning. This is the first project to fail. It was a government-to-government project,” Gendler said in an interview.

He left after just two years, citing frustration by the Kenyan government.

His successor, Ambassador Oded Joseph, who also left on Monday after a two-year stint, said he didn’t’ make headway with the project. He was appointed head of the Middle East Department at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Acknowledging the project was “a success story from the perspective of utilising Israeli technologies and expertise”, Ambassador Joseph admitted “there were some misunderstanding or open issues between the partners”.

In an interview with The Star, the diplomat said he proposed a way forward on how to learn from the success and mistakes in the project and turn the model farm into a national-level food security project.

“If I’m honest, we have not made the breakthrough in terms of getting the opinion and the position of the Kenyan side on the way forward. So, it’s still pending,” Ambassador Joseph said.

“If there was one thing that I was hoping to do before I leave, it is to make sure we have a good understanding of how the Kenyan government wishes to treat or to comment on our proposal,” he added.

But Ambassador Gendler, a former special envoy for water and food security affairs, was more brutal with his honesty.

He said Kenya’s potential in inhibited by “barons and cartels” that have taken over government.

“Nothing moves unless the barons are part of it. They are everywhere,” he said in September 2019.

He noted that there were many groups that wanted the project dead

“Farmers in the maize-growing areas and their political representatives. Maize millers who fought and eventually succeeded in getting the government to drop the maize-milling component from the contract. They did not want the price of a two-kilo packet of maize meal to sell between Sh60-70,” he said.

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