Rice farmers in Tana River County are looking forward to reaping good profits from the crop after the introduction of a rice transplanting machine.
Tana River is synonymous with drought and floods, but the introduction of the rice transplanting machine is seen by farmers as a game-changer with the ongoing drought ravaging parts of the Tana River.
KiliMOL in partnership with the National Irrigation Authority conducted a two-day machine demonstration to farmers in the Hola and Bura Irrigation Schemes on the rice transplanter and rice milling machines.
The mechanization of rice production in the Tana River will support the government effort to attainment of food security.
Rice is the third staple crop after maize and wheat in Kenya. The government aspires to increase the production of rice to 1.3 million metric tonnes by 2030 in a bid to be self-sufficient thus reduce imports.
Rice farmers have welcomed the introduction of the new machines, saying it will increase rice production tenfold and save on costs. They appealed to the Tana River County government to purchase the machines for small-scale farmers.
“We used to plant maize, but we have opted for rice production since it has more returns. Our main challenge was the cost of transplanting which is Sh13, 000 per acre using the conventional method,’’ said Natasha Munya, a rice farmer in Bura Irrigation Scheme.
Rice farmer, Rose Wairimu said rice has a ready market from the National Cereals and Produce Board and business people from Mwea throng Bura during harvest seasons to buy.
Harun Kimathi, Project Manager, KiliMol, said they are targeting small scale farmers with the new small and compact machines to make sure the mechanization of agriculture has been improved.
“We did a demonstration in Kirinyaga County, where rice farming is quite extensive. We have decided to bring the technology to Tana River since rice farming is gaining momentum,’’ Kimathi said.
The rice transplanting machine takes 45 minutes per acre to transplant seedlings from the nursery. The machine picks seedlings roots directly from the tray. Using trays as nurseries has reduced the germination time from 21 to 14 days, thus saves on transplanting shock.
Bura Irrigation Scheme was predominantly known for cotton production as the main cash crop until Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) came up with the Komboka rice variety which is drought resistant.
Most farmers have shifted from other crops to rice farming which they harvested in a short period and is in high demand. The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) buys at Sh40 per kilogram and payment take less than 24 hours.
“We have gone through a shift, as of now there are 2,500 acres of land under crop. Rice is taking over in Bura,’’ said Peter Orua, Acting Manager, Bura Irrigation Scheme.
Currently, 1,400 acres are under rice, according to the acting manager they are targeting to have 2,500 acres under rice production by the end of October apart from other crops.
Bura irrigation scheme has a developed area of 12,000 acres with a potential to expand up to 25,000 acres once the Sh7.35 billion gravity irrigation project is completed.
The Komboka rice variety is semi-aromatic, has long slender grains and a soft cooking texture. The plant height is 110-115cm, does not lodge and matures in three to four months (110).
By Sadik Hassan