Rice farmers in Mwea irrigation scheme, Kirinyaga County will have their dues from this year’s crop paid latest February next year.
The Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) Managing Director, Pamela Mutua, said already the farmers have been paid Sh500 million for the last season.
“We have already paid the farmers Sh500 million for the last season, while a balance of Sh200 million is due the soonest possible,” she assured the farmers.
Mutua was responding to cries from rice farmers who told the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya, when he visited the area that it was going to almost a year before they were paid despite having delivered their produce to the corporation for marketing.
The CS said the government had asked importers of the crop not to over import when the one produced in Mwea was still held in their stores.
Munya also assured the growers that this year’s crop would not be destroyed by the perennial querea querea birds which migrate into the scheme whenever the grain reached maturity stage.
“We have requested the National Treasury to ensure funds for buying spray chemicals to destroy these birds were availed on time to avoid massive losses of the grain crop, as it happened last season,” he said.
Other measures put in place to improve productivity of the crop was the ongoing construction of the Thiba mega dam, which upon completion will provide adequate irrigation water for two crops per year, instead of the current one that is dependent on rainfall.
“The contractor has given an undertaking that come the long rains next April, the dam will be filed up in readiness for the farmers to start growing two crops per year without any further dependency on rain fed agriculture,” the CS told the farmers.
He also assured the farmers that the government had mandated the KNTC to ensure all its institutions bought their rice requirements from the area, which was of high quality compared to the imported cheap varieties.
The scheme has also started to produce Kwamboka rice variety, which is high yielding, early maturing and equally aromatic just like the popular Pishori, and which the local farmers are being encouraged to grow.
The National Irrigation Authority (NIA) Chairman, Joshua Toro, who was present, recalled how when he was an opposition MP fought the then National Irrigation Board (NIB), alongside the area MP, Alfred Nderitu, to bring about the reforms farmers were now enjoying.
He said the struggle to bring about the reforms the farmers required in order to free themselves from the oppression by the Board was an uphill task more so since the Kanu regime was still firmly holding on into the scheme.
“I could not imagine that one day I would be appointed to Chair the NIA Board and stand in front of you as I am doing today in this capacity and I can only assure you for now of even more better things to come,” he said.
The Chairman informed the farmers their issues were even more represented after their own Water Users Association Chairman, Morris Mutugi, was incorporated into NIA as one of its Board Members.
By Irungu Mwangi