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RECLAIMED

National Irrigation Authority reclaims 5,400 acres of rice farms

Government also rehabilitated the dykes.

In Summary
  • The entire area was flooded last year as a result of the rising water levels in Lake Victoria.

  • However, through the government's intervention, the authority invested in drainage and pumping water out of the scheme where rice is grown.

Bags of freshly harvested rice at the Ahero irrigation scheme in Kisumu county.
Bags of freshly harvested rice at the Ahero irrigation scheme in Kisumu county.
Image: DICKENS WASONGA

The National Irrigation Authority has reclaimed 2,200ha (5,436 acres) of rice farms in West Kano irrigation scheme in Kisumu county that was submerged, crippling production.

The entire area was flooded last year as a result of the rising water levels in Lake Victoria.

However, through the government's intervention, the authority invested in drainage and pumping water out of the scheme where rice is grown.

According to the NIA Nyanza region coordinator Joel Tanui , the government also rehabilitated the dykes and farmers have gone back to full production in the area.

Speaking to reporters at Ahero irrigation scheme, Tanui said the government target to increase the acreage under rice production to 30,000ha in two years time.

“The potential of irrigation, particularly in Kano plains is still very huge and untapped," he said, adding that Nyanza region has the highest potential in terms of irrigation in the country.

“In another two years, we have a target to bring on board another 30,000ha under irrigation in Kisumu county, " he said.

He said this will depend on the completion of the multi billion Koru- Soin dam which will provide water to the area for irrigation.

Tanui said the area was blessed with rich agricultural soils , abundant water and human resource capacity.

“ The government is investing in human capital and infrastructure support in the region so that it can realize its full potential in regards to irrigation, “ he said.

The regional coordinator said NIA was currently scouting for new irrigation areas towards its mission to expand production.

“ Over 500,000 ha of land should be under irrigation in Kenya by 2030 so that we are able to feed the entire nation, “ he said.

He noted that the government’s aggressive campaigns targeting expansion of land under irrigation in Nyanza region is already bearing fruit.

In Kisumu county alone, through the National Irrigation Authority programsme, 13,000 acres of land has been put under irrigation .

From this portion of land, the county now produces 30,000 metric tones of rice every season, and earning Sh2 billion.

He said the expansion program in Nyanza has benefited 10,000 rice farmers.

“ Irrigation programs initiated in the area has also created job opportunities. In the 13,000 ha, in Kisumu alone, we have created over 50,000 jobs directly to farmers and youths,” he said.

He said that NIA has been able to double production of rice per acre piece of land in the area.

He said farmers used to get 20 bags of rice per acre but now the production has gone up to between 40-50 bags per acre.

“ This is because we provide farmers with fertilizer, certified seeds and they have also embraced mechanized farming which was lacking and led to post harvest losses,” he said.

However, rice farmers are still facing marketing challenges.

Last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed Kenya National Trading Company (KNTC) to buy rice from local farmers to supply to government Institutions across the country.

This was to address the challenges farmers were facing in the hands of brokers and middlemen.

However, rice farmers from Kisumu county had a challenge with the supply to KNTC because of quality parameters set for them.

KNTC , according to Tanui , wrote to farmers raising concerns over quality of rice supplied.

He said the local farmers were used to selling their rice raw to those buying from their farms. On Tuesday, he appealed to the company to partner with NIA to train farmers on the milling parameters.

“ The farmers are willing to sell to government Institutions. KNTC was offering good prices and payment was prompt. If we address this, the issue of market will be solved,” he said.

The farmers are also grappling with the birds menace.

According to the authority, rice farmers in Kano plains lose up to 15 percent of the produce to birds.

The coordinator said farmers lose Sh 200 million per season to birds invasion.

He said the authority was in talks with the ministry of agriculture and the county government of Kisumu to see how best the issue can be addressed.

He said two approaches were being explored ,one of which include controlling the birds breeding sites chemically to reduce the population.

“ We are also testing mechanical birds scaring method. A study is underway on the mechanical method. Two university students are working on the initiative,” he said.

The authority is also in discussion with the county government of Kisumu to put up a major rice Mill in the county..

Western Kenya rice mill that is the only available rice Mill in the area doesn’t have the capacity to mill the crop given the expanding production.

The private mill was established in 1992.

Tanui appealed to private investors to take advantage of the existing business opportunities to invest in big rice mills.

“ The government has heavily invested on infrastructure development in rice production. Under public private partnerships, the investors should now grab the existing opportunity to establish big rice mills here,” he said.