- Rice to the Top -
We are establishing a rice project in Ahero, Western Kenya to enhance the profitability of rice growing in the area. The region is very fertile and has great agricultural potential, but has been largely neglected. People in the area are generally poor, with income on average below $2 per day. Kenya’s population of more than 40 Million depends on rice, but only about a quarter of a million small holder farmers are engaged in growing rice, mostly on land holdings of less than 10 hectares. Kenya consumes more rice than it grows.
Rice is the world’s most important staple food, providing 27% of the calories in low- and middle-income countries, and will continue to be so in the coming decades for food security, poverty alleviation, and youth and women employment. However, farmers face many barriers, such as access to farming inputs, finance, information, training and markets.
Climate change is also hindering agriculture through the effects of higher temperatures, inconsistent rain patterns, droughts and flooding. Additional sources of water are needed to ensure irrigation during dry periods. Through provision of irrigation support, we shall be able to ensure two rice crops per year, dramatically increasing income from rice growing.
Tag International Development is working closely with Kisumu County local authority and other partners such as the National Irrigation Board to increase rice production and provide a viable business platform for small scale farmers in South West Kano of the larger Ahero Irrigation Scheme in Western Kenya.
The rice project will be carried out on the currently available 5000 acres of irrigated farm land, and which has over 5000 farmers whose average land holding per family is about 1 acre. The main water source for irrigation in this scheme is the Nyando river whose capacity can sustain two seasons cropping with proper management and maintenance of the intake points and the canals.
Rice growing in the area has not utilized its full potential due to:
- Inadequate supply of water for irrigation due to poor infrastructure and maintenance of the water systems right from the intake point. This has resulted in some schemes receiving water while others must wait for about four to six months before they can engage in rice farming. The intention of this project is to fix the water points thereby ensuring that participating farmers receive water throughout the year to enable two rice seasons.
- Farmers in the area lack suitable farm inputs and are poorly trained in the application of fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in poor yields. We plan to ensure that the farmers are supported to access all the necessary farm inputs to allow for maximum yields. We will choose the best seeds for growing in the area and provide them to the farmers free of charge.
- Poor agronomical practices are common, as the farmers lack relevant skills and knowledge in rice farming. Majority are still using ancient methods in land preparation, water use, planting methods and fertilizer application techniques. We shall provide relevant training, grouping farmers together under lead farmers who will support their group, equipping them with appropriate skills and techniques necessary to improve rice output per acre.
- Lack of milling capabilities means that the rice is sold together with its husks, lowering the price the farmers can attract for their rice. We will provide a milling capability that will process the rice at a low cost, ensuring the income will increase substantially while the additional costs will be modest.
- Most of the farmers lack capacity to acquire large and well aerated stores for their rice once harvested. This forces them to sell their produce to the middlemen at the farm gate at very low prices. We shall provide central storage facilities from where the rice can be sold at superior prices.
The long-term plan is to scale up to 5,000 farmers. However, the initial phase is beginning with 300 farmers, each farming an average of one acre of land. This will allow us to learn a great deal more about all aspects of the plan and ensure that a large scale project will be based on strong foundations and proven approaches.
Farmers will be supplied with planting fertiliser, top dressing fertiliser, fungicides, foliar feed and insecticides and will be trained in their use, so as to ensure a high yield and thus profitability. Based on pre-project trials, it is hoped that farmers will produce 30 kilos or more per acre. Such levels of productivity over two seasons of rice growing per year will have a transformative effect on the prosperity of the farmers, who typically produce less than 25 kilos in just one season of rice growing.