In Summary
  • Mwea’s traditional rice farming practices met a revolution in 2013 when the Japanese International Corporation Agency, through a programme called Rice-based and Market-oriented Agriculture Promotion Project (Rice MAPP) introduced the machines
  • The rice farmers also get connected to buyers who purchase unmilled rice at Sh60 to Sh75 per kilo.

Rolling plains of well-manicured green fields stretch across the rustic township of Wang’uru in Mwea, offering a magnificent view as one enjoys air filled with pishori rice aroma.

Wang’uru village, which is approximately 200km from Nairobi, is distinguishable from other rice growing villages of Mwea Irrigation Scheme due to its use of technology in cultivating the grain.

Some three years ago, Wang’uru farmers like most rice growers across the country, were accustomed to the conventional paddy cultivation that involved random planting and manual extensive labour, which was less remunerative in the long run.

However, they have since embraced mechanisation that has made work easier.

“We are using machineries such as combined harvesters which only take an hour to harvest an acre. Initially, it would take 10 people to do the same work for a whole day,” says David Waweru, Mwea Rice Farmers Sacco chairman.

Peter Mwaura, a rice farmer, says it now costs him Sh5,000 to harvest rice from his one-acre farm using a combined harvester, which is half the cost of hiring manual labourers for the same job.

Mechanized rice farming

Mwea’s traditional rice farming practices met a revolution in 2013 when the Japanese International Corporation Agency, through a programme called Rice-based and Market-oriented Agriculture Promotion Project (Rice MAPP) introduced the machines.

Farmers were trained on line planting, mechanical weeding and harvesting. The project has 18 combined harvesters and 25 tractors, which farmers hire at affordable prices.

“There was a lot of training especially on land preparation, whereby after ploughing farmers use a leveller to level the planting plot before using a marker to demarcate the correct spacing for planting,” says Ibrahim Murioki, Rice MAPP agribusiness development manager.

After ploughing, the field is flooded before being levelled using a hand held tool, which is dragged on the surface of the farm so that it is uniformly levelled. This is followed by marking of planting space which the expert said should measure 30 by 15cm.

The farmer explains that the leveller can be improvised using pieces of timber. “One needs two pieces of wood which are joined to form a T-shaped tool. Nails are hammered onto the lower side of the timber so that it resembles a rake.”

Improved harvest

Line marking is done by two people, Mwaura says, as one drags the rake-like tool across the farm, the other drags along the farm, the exercise leaves the farm marked by small boxes.

Murioki says that line planting enables mechanised weeding and harvesting, adding that use of the technologies have increased their farmers yields by about 30 per cent.

The rice farmers also get connected to buyers who purchase unmilled rice at Sh60 to Sh75 per kilo. Some farmers, on the other hand, mill their rice at Nice Rice Miller Ltd, which threshes 60 per cent of all the produce in Mwea at Sh3 a kilo and sells it at Sh105.

With the new technologies, Rice MAPP experts noted that their farmers harvest up to 5 tonnes of rice per hectare.

Dr Akio Goto, Rice MAPP technical operation manager, said they do field trials for new seed varieties before recommending them to farmers.

“We are now working with 500 farmers but hope to double them by next year. We have demonstration plots where we try seeds from different companies and inform farmers of which seeds to grow for commercial purposes and for their own consumption and the output to expect when harvesting.”