Rice farmers in Mwea are now set to improve their yields after embracing hybrid rice which produces more yields and is fast maturing.
At the moment over 100 farmers at Kabatiro in the suburbs of Kutus town are preparing to harvest their rice having been supplied with the hybrid rice seeds by a local NGO, Integrated Community Organization on Sustainable Empowerment and Education for Development (ICOSEED)
The Managing Director of the Organization, Patrick Muriuki, has said that they target to engage over 400 farmers in an endeavour to increase their rice production.
He said the farmers who were supplied with the seeds have attested that the new hybrid variety, true to the expert’s words, has grown faster than the traditional rice.
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (ATTF) has been collaborating with Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization (KARLO) and the local NGO in Mwea in the development of the hybrid rice.
Speaking during a field day in one of the rice farms at Kabatiro on Monday, Muriuki said they were supportive of the President’s Big Four Agenda especially on the food security.
“Our objective is to achieve prosperity for the farmers through technology through the hybrid rice,” he said.
He said there is greater need for the adoption of the technology in order to increase rice production and reduce rice importation which takes a huge amount of money from the government.
Muriuki said the level of rice consumption in Kenya stands at 650,000 tons compared to the production which is at 150,000 tons. As a result, the deficit is met by the importation of 500,000 tons of rice yearly.
“There is a big opportunity for employment in the increased production of rice in Mwea and in the global market and this is why we are encouraging the farmers to go hybrid,” he said.
Muriuki said production of rice in Kenya stand at 2 tons per hector as compared to the global production of 4.3 per hectare, thus the deficiency of rice in the country.
Records has it that consumption of rice has increased by 13% while productivity grew by only 3% and therefore the big need to jump start rice production in the country.
“Adoption of hybrid rice will enhance income for the farmers besides creating the much desired job opportunities for the youths in Kenya,” he said.
The hybrid project has already engaged 25 people who are on full time employment to deal with the challenge of inadequacy of information being availed to the farmers.
“This is why it is important for the government to create environment to make private sector invest in Agriculture,” Muriuki said.
He said a local Non-governmental, their role will be to facilitate the farmers acquire the hybrid seeds working in collaboration with other stake holders like the KARLO.
“Already national rice performance trials started 10 years ago have managed to come up with five types of hybrid seed which are being availed to the farmers for planting,” Muriuki said.
“It is going to be an economic booster since the hybrid rice has been proven to yield three times more than the traditional rice,” he added.
Muriuki said farmers if they fully adopt the hybrid rice will be able to meet the deficit and reduce importation of rice from Pakistan and other far countries.
“The reason the growth in consumption is higher than production is due to improved livelihood, rural urban migration and rice being food for the elites as compared to cassava known as poor man’s food,” he said.
A rice production expert, Stephen Thiga said the new rice variety apart for improved yield and early maturing is also better in the resistance of diseases and pest.
He said by 2030, Kenya should be able to produce enough rice to cut down the importation of the in the country.
The most popular brand of rice grown in Mwea at the moment is Basmati 370 with 80% market share followed by Basmati 217.