In Summary
  • Whereas the wholesale price of rice for household consumption is at Sh50 a kilo for unmilled rice, seeds go for Sh75 a kilo.
  • Japanese government through a programme called Rice-based and Market-oriented Agriculture Promotion Project (RiceMAPP) introduced a water saving technology in 2012.
  • In the technology rice seedlings are transplanted to the fields at three weeks instead of the usual five.

Surrounded by rows of harvested rice stalks, Daniel Kibuchi stands on his paddy field at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme some 120km north of Nairobi.

The 59-year-old veteran rice farmer, who ventured into paddy farming in the 1970’s has witnessed the country’s largest rice irrigation scheme evolve from traditional farming practices to a technology-led production.

“Right now I specialise in growing rice for seeds which I sell to Mwea Rice Growers Multipurpose Co-operative. Growing seeds fetches more compared to producing for household consumption,” the father of four said, adding he gets all his farm inputs from the cooperative.

Whereas the wholesale price of rice for household consumption is at Sh50 a kilo for unmilled rice, seeds go for Sh75 a kilo, the farmer told us.

He mainly grows Basmati rice on his two-acre farm. Until recently, the irrigation scheme, which produces half of all Kenya’s rice, relied on the traditional techniques which involved random planting and flooding the field with water.

This technique involved intensive labour and wasted water, yet the yields remained low.

However, when the Japanese government through a programme called Rice-based and Market-oriented Agriculture Promotion Project (RiceMAPP) introduced a water saving technology in 2012, the conflict among rice farmers was taken care of and the field became more productive.

WATER SAVING RICE TECHNOLOGY

The programme involves intermittent irrigation, use of healthy seedlings, hand leveling of the farm, line planting and improved weeding.

“Basically, rice fields do not need to be flooded with water all week round to give better yields,” explains Tatsuo Narabu the Rice MAPP field extension officer.

Narabu says in intermittent irrigation farmers are only required to irrigate their farms for three days before taking a break of seven days.

Farmers are also trained to level their farms before planting seedlings to ensure an even flow of water into the farm. In the technology rice seedlings are transplanted to the fields at three weeks instead of the usual five.

Kibuchi’s and 41 others are some of the earliest adopters of this water saving rice culture technology.

He harvested 3,150 kilos of rice from water saving farm and 2,600 kilos on the other farm.

David Njongu, RiceMAPP project manager, points that water consumption in the scheme has gone down and conflict reduced.