In Summary
  • RiceMAPP involves use of production knowledge and technologies in water management and crop care to increase harvest.
  • Farmers at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme can now attain maximum yields and earn profits.
  • Jica’s Rice-based and Market-oriented Agriculture Promotion Project (RiceMAPP) has strove to alleviate these challenges through its innovative concepts.
  • Line planting is the third principle with the recommended spacing of 30cm by 15cm rather than randomly planting the rice seedlings.

Paddies on either side of the road stretch as far as the eye can see as you enter Mwea Constituency in Kirinyaga County.

Rice is the primary source of livelihood in the region with the Basmati 370 being the most widely cultivated variety.

For a long time, 40-year-old John Gakuya Nyamu, one of the farmers at the 22,000-acre Mwea Irrigation Scheme has exclusively depended on the crop.

The farming engagement provided just enough to ensure his family is well-provided for with no additional profits.
“From the two leased paddies that I farm, I used to get about 20 bags of rice. While it was enough to cater for my family, I did not realise I could earn much more,” says Nyamu.

Luckily for Nyamu and other farmers, things have changed for the better.

Today innovative technologies have been introduced that have seen an increase in rice production and a drop in production costs.

This has been made possible through a collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), which brought in stakeholders like Mwea Irrigation Agricultural Development (MIAD), the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), National Irrigation Board (NIB) and several universities both in Kenya and in Japan, among other backers.

Through the partnership’s programme, Science and Technology Research for Sustainable Development (SATREPS)project, key constraints that hinder effective cultivation of rice in the country were identified and efforts to alleviate them effected.

“Cold weather, rice blast disease, drought and water saving inadequacies, and low fertility and soil salinity were identified as factors that have been constraining the crop’s effective cultivation in various regions countrywide,” says Dr Daigo Makihara the lead researcher in the programme and associate professor at the International Cooperation Centre for Agricultural Education at Nagoya University in Japan.

He notes that efforts are underway to curb these challenges by developing rice varieties that are robust and resilient, and adaptable for wide-ranging ecological settings.

He said this is possible through advancement of technological innovations and resourceful yet sustainable ways to cultivate the crop

Dr Makihara says technologies such as molecular breeding of rice and DNA-marker assisted selection are currently applied in the programme at Kalro in Mwea to come up with rice varieties that carry suitable genes to overcome stress conditions in different geographical and ecological settings in the country.

And in reiteration of the importance of rice as a top food security crop and encouraging its cultivation, Dr John Kimani the managing director of Kalro-Mwea says up to 16 new rice varieties have so far been developed for varied environments in the country; for both uplands and irrigated conditions.

But water has proven to be the most serious challenge for farmers at the scheme.

Jica’s Rice-based and Market-oriented Agriculture Promotion Project (RiceMAPP) has strove to alleviate these challenges through its innovative concepts.

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