New rice project targets pastoralists in Kerio Valley

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Economy

New rice project targets pastoralists in Kerio Valley


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A farmer tends to her NERICA 88 rice. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • The Ministry of Agriculture has launched a programme to encourage pastoralists in Kerio Valley to take up rice farming in order to benefit from high demand for the cereal.
  • The initiative is aimed at motivating livestock farmers in Baringo, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties to invest in rice production as an alternative source of income and attain food security.
  • The government has introduced a new high yielding seed variety, New Rice for Africa (NERICA), which is suitable for highland regions and takes 105 days to mature.

The Ministry of Agriculture has launched a programme to encourage pastoralists in Kerio Valley to take up rice farming in order to benefit from high demand for the cereal.

The initiative is aimed at motivating livestock farmers in Baringo, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties to invest in rice production as an alternative source of income and attain food security.

The government has introduced a new high yielding seed variety, New Rice for Africa (NERICA), which is suitable for highland regions and takes 105 days to mature.

The variety, according to annual agricultural report released in March, yields up to 4.5 tonnes per hectare in Kerio Valley with a potential of 5 to 6 tonnes per hectare.

Rift Valley harvested 167,130 kilos of rice from 57 hectares last season, up from 31,500 tonnes from 57 hectares the previous year as farmers in Kerio Valley turned to cultivation of the crop.

“The region has large potential for the production of NERICA especially in the counties of Elgeyo-Marakwet, Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Kajiado which have good climatic and soil conditions for production of the crop,” said the report.

More than 1,000 kilos of the rice seed was delivered to the National Irrigation Board (NIB) Perkerra scheme in Baringo County last season by Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) for distribution to the farmers. “Farmers within irrigation schemes in Marigat area are currently being used to bulk NERICA seed for Kenya Seed Company,” disclosed the report.

Inadequate rainfall has been cited as a setback to most of the farmers. However, experts say the problem can be mitigated through harvesting water for irrigation.

Lack of planting materials and threshing and milling machines are also part of the challenges facing rice farmers in the region.

“Competing farm activities such has maize, wheat and sorghum cultivation that coincide with rice production and damages to the crop caused by termites and birds remain a challenge to most farmers,” the report noted.

The government has however embarked on recruitment of potential rice farmers as common interest groups and adoption of modern production techniques.

Other strategies to improve rice cultivation include setting up demonstration farms and exposure tours to areas like Mwea Irrigation scheme.

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