• Started with two varieties of rice; an uplands variety known as Nerica and Basmati 370, commonly known as Pishori.
• Water is pumped from a shallow well dug at the bed of the seasonal river Nzeeu and lifted using a motorised water pump onto the farms.
A farmer in Kunguluni village along River Nzeeu has ventured into rice farming on his one acre in Kitui.
Richard Musyoka will have his first harvest in the next month.
In this pilot project, Musyoka and Water engineer Martin Kasina started with two varieties of rice, an uplands variety known as Nerica and Basmati 370, commonly known as Pishori.
Ninety days after sowing, the crop is doing well.
Kasina, who has 10 years of experience as a senior researcher with the National Irrigation Authority based in Mwea irrigation scheme, has played a fundamental role in the success of the project.
“At first, I was hesitant to venture into rice farming but the encouragement from the expert pushed me to give it a trial,” Musyoka said
He soon realised it was not as difficult as he thought, as he had believed rice needed to be grown in a flooded area.
Musyoka says in the past he used to grow vegetables, most of which would go to waste when the supply in the market exceeded the demand.
Kasina said after years of research in Mwea and with new technologies such as water-saving rice culture borrowed from Japan and Thailand, studies had shown that rice can also be successfully grown with reduced amounts of water.
“This knowledge will change the local farmers' perspective from traditional cereal crops such as maize to high-value cereal crops such as rice,” Kasina said.
Since they lacked the requisite farm machinery such as tractors to till the land, the farmer and his technical assistant engaged manual labour to prepare the farm into sizeable plots which were then levelled to allow holding of water.
The rice was first planted in a nursery bed and then transplanted to the plots at 21 days.
Water is pumped from a shallow well dug at the bed of the seasonal River Nzeeu and lifted using a motorised water pump onto the farms.
The farmer would then move from a plot to the next and flood it with water every two days.
Kasina said rice needs DAP fertiliser to allow for vegetative growth, adding that at day 70 when it starts flowering, Sulphate Ammonia is applied to boost the formation of seeds.
But with the rice farming being a new venture in the county, some chemicals and even fertilisers are not locally available and have to be procured from Embu town.
Weeding is done by plucking the weeds after wetting the plots.
Scarecrows have also been erected to ward off birds that have a huge appetite for Pishori grains.
“Kitui soils are fertile and with the use of seasonal rivers, rice farming can be the next commercial frontier for local farmers,” Kasina said.
The duo said with the encouragement from other local farmers who have shown willingness to venture into commercial rice farming, their future plan is to upscale the project and add more acreage under rice irrigation.
He says part of their plans is to invest in a mill to be able to produce and package the white rice, thus giving the local farmers all the benefits
Musyoka says getting local production of rice will be his ultimate pride.
Edited by R.Wamochie