AGRIBUSINESS

Youth making a fortune from growing new rice variety in Bura

The adoption of Komboka has also revolutionised and is shaping up the Tana river rice hub

In Summary

• According to KALRO, majority of the farmers were planting other rice varieties and the area under rice production was 700 acres.

• After promotion of Komboka the acreage has now increased to 3640, an 80 percent increase as of December 2021. 

The government has been putting efforts to promote agriculture and make it appealing to the youth, and so far only a few have embraced it.

Immaculate Wanjira, a rice farmer from village seven in Bura Irrigation Scheme in Tana River County during a farmers' field day
Immaculate Wanjira, a rice farmer from village seven in Bura Irrigation Scheme in Tana River County during a farmers' field day
Image: AGATHA NGOTHO
Harvested paddy rice in Bura Irrigation Scheme
Harvested paddy rice in Bura Irrigation Scheme
Image: AGATHA NGOTHO
A rice harvester machine in Bura Irrigation Scheme in Tana River County
A rice harvester machine in Bura Irrigation Scheme in Tana River County
Image: AGATHA NGOTHO

The government has been putting efforts to promote agriculture and make it appealing to the youth, and so far only a few have embraced it.

Immaculate Wanjira is one of the young people who has found a gold mine in rice farming.

She says she inherited her one and a half acre from her mother who passed away in January 2020. 

The 29-year-old rice farmer from village seven in Bura Irrigation Scheme, Tana River country said she is making good money from rice farming and there is no turning back.

She spoke to the Star during a field day in Bura Irrigation Scheme.

Wanjira is now among farmers in Mwea and Bura Irrigation schemes who have adopted growing a new rice variety called Komboka.

Her passion for farming started at an early age. She started by growing maize and cotton in her mother's one and a half acre farm in Bura Irrigation Scheme.

Production and the yields for the two crops was low due to various challenges including pests and diseases as well as high cost of farm input.

“I once made around Sh20,000 from cotton and Sh90,000 from maize on one and half acre. I was able to buy a motorbike from the money I made from maize farming. I use it to get to the farm and run errands,” she said.

But thanks to the introduction of the new rice variety by researchers from the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation and the International Rice Research Institute, Wanjira’s life and that of her siblings has improved.

She said since she started growing the rice variety in 2020, she has been able to harvest over 60 bags which earned her about Sh250,000 from three acres.

“Last year, I expanded the acreage under rice to six acres and was able to earn close to Sh700,000. I am planning to expand by another six acres to make a total of 12. If the crop does well, I am hoping to earn close to Sh1 million,” she said.

KALRO director general Eliud Kireger says the adoption of Komboka rice variety is a success story.

“KALRO in collaboration with IRRI started the promotion of Komboka rice variety in October 2020. The first farmer field day were held in early March 2021 and by then only a handful of farmers were planting Komboka,” he said.

“Majority of the farmers were planting other rice varieties and the area under rice production was 700 acres. After the promotion of Komboka the acreage has now increased to 3,640, an 80 per cent increase as of December 2021,” Kireger said.

He added that the adoption of Komboka has also revolutionised and is shaping up the Tana River rice hub. 

Currently there are three private mills, and the National Cereals and Produce Board is buying paddy rice and selling Komboka seeds.

Ruth Musila, a plant breeder from KALRO said the rice variety is high yielding with a yield range of six to seven tons per ha.

This, she said is significantly more than farmers yields of local varieties at 2.5 to 3 tons per ha.

The rice variety is also preferred by farmers because it is tasty compared to local basmati rice 

“The variety also matures fast and requires less water thus making it suitable for drier areas. Wide adoption of these high yielding varieties offers an opportunity to double rice production in Kenya and set the country free from rice imports," Musila said.

Wanjira however pointed out that despite the high income she is getting from rice farming, the cost of inputs especially fertiliser, is still high.

She says a 90kg bag UREA fertiliser has since doubled from Sh3,100 in 2020 to the current price of Sh6,900.

Wanjira said once she has paid school fees for her sister's three children, she banks the remaining money and is planning to start her own cosmetology training school in Embu.  

"I have a diploma in cosmetology from Wanjau Technical and Training Institute in Embu. I had planned to open a spa business and a training school on cosmetology but I put everything on hold after my mum passed away," she said.

"I have not abandoned my plans but for now I concentrate more on rice farming so that I can make enough money to start my businesses," Wanjira said.  

Her advise to the youth; there is money in agriculture and that young people should work towards being independent and avoid being idle.