MWEA-TEBERE IRRIGATION SCHEME

  • It’s the largest irrigation scheme in East Africa.
  • Water is got from River Thiba, River Nyamindi and River Tana.




Aims of the scheme

  • To provide employment to the political detainees.
  • To resettle the land less people.
  • To produce rice and other food crops on large scale.
  • To develop the area of North East Kenya.

Conditions that have favored the location of the Mwea-Tebere project

  • Availability of permanent water sources e.g. River Nyamindi, Thiba and Tana to provide water for irrigation.
  • The gently sloping landscape i.e. the piedmont plain on the lower slopes of mountain Kenya allowing irrigation by gravity flow.
  • The presence of fertile black volcanic soils for cotton and red clay soils which support rice growing.
  • Availability of extensive tracts of land which was sparsely populated hence providing free land for the project.




  • The area receives low and unreliable rainfall of 750mm per annum which favors irrigation.
  • Supportive government policy of setting up irrigation schemes to develop remote areas of Mwea-Tebere.
  • Availability of adequate capital for investment e.g. to purchase farm inputs and tools to be used for farming.
  • Availability of ready market both local and international for the farm produce.
  • Availability of well developed transport lines e.g. Nairobi-Nyeri railway line for delivering rice to markets.
  • Presence of landless people who were ready to be recruited and provide cheap labour to work on the scheme.




Benefits of Mwea–Tebere irrigation scheme

  • Source of food especially rice for human consumption.
  • Provided employment opportunities to the farmers hence improving their standards of living.
  • The project has helped to re-settle people who were formally landless.
  • The project has led to improvement in the infrastructure e.g. roads which has improved transport in the area.
  • Flooding of the rivers has been controlled hence improving the safety of lives of the people around.
  • It’s a source of government revenue through taxes used to develop infrastructures e.g. roads.
  • It has led to improvement in research hence resulting into high crop yielding varieties.




  • The project led to effective utilization of the land which could have remained idle hence reducing resource wastage.
  • It has led to development of processing industries which have led to urbanisation e.g. the rice mill at Mwea-Tebere.
  • Infrastructural development has led to urbanisation e.g. Thiba and Embu towns.
  • It has led to large scale output hence encouraging exports leading to acquisition of foreign exchange by government.

Problems faced by farmers on the scheme




  • Pests which destroy stored crops leading to losses e.g. rice weevils.
  • Diseases also destroy crops leading to low output e.g. rice blast and rice rust.
  • Price fluctuations due to over production which discourage the farmers from further production.
  • Weather changes which affect the output e.g. cool temperatures and heavy storms which destroy the crops.
  • Reduction in soil fertility due to monoculture leading to low output.
  • Weeds which compete with crops for soil nutrients leading to low quality output.




  • Limited capital for further investment which also leads to reduced output.
  • Soil salination due to high evaporation rates in the area leading to low output.
  • Inadequate labour force especially during the harvesting period which brings activities to a standstill.
  • Silting of canals which cause floods leading to destruction of farmlands.

Steps being taken to solve the problems

  • Spraying of crops by using pesticides to avoid pests and diseases.
  • Price control by government and production by quota system to avoid price fluctuation at the world market.
  • Research on better rice varieties to increase production and quality.
  • Applying fertilizers and manure to increase soil fertility and ensure high productivity.




  • Use of herbicides to control weeds and reduce competition for soil nutrients.
  • Weather studies are emphasized to reduce effects of weather destruction.
  • Diversification of agriculture to reduce over reliance on rice growing e.g. introduction of cotton and peas.
  • Encouraging mechanization to solve the problem of labour shortage especially during harvesting.
  • Acquiring loans from banks to provide large capital base for farm operations.




  • De-silting and dredging of canals to control floods and ensure proper flow of water.