KENYA: Rice and Improving the Yields in Kenya

KENYA: Improving yields key to boosting rice farmers’ livelihoods

Photo: David Hecht/IRINAHERO, 3 March 2011 (IRIN) – After spending Ksh35,000 (US$437) on his 0.4 hectare rice plantation – preparing the land, paying for water, transplanting the rice and hiring casual labour – Vincent Opiyo hopes to make Ksh65,000 ($812) when he sells the rice, which takes about three months to mature.

“I expect to harvest 25 bags [50kg each] from this [land] but I know I could get more if I were to improve the yield,” Opiyo, 49, father of eight, told IRIN at the Ahero Rice Irrigation Scheme in Nyanza province.

In addition to the high costs of inputs, the farmers, who are “licensees” on trust land, struggle to access credit as they lack title deeds.

Were it not for what he earns working for the National Irrigation Board (NIB) – which runs the Ahero scheme – Opiyo would not meet the needs of his family from farming.

“Poverty is very high among many farmers under the Ahero scheme because they never make enough to cover needs such as school fees and payment for medicine when children fall sick; look at the structures we live in, most of them are semi-permanent,” Opiyo said.

“Many of us do not even own a cow or some goats. Our father managed to [send] us to school from the proceeds of his [1.6ha] of rice, but for us, his children, it is no longer enough.”

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
The average yield of Basmati rice at Ahero is 13-25 (75kg) bags per 0.4ha when it should be 20-30 bags

Low yields, better prospects

According to NIB, the average yield of Basmati rice at Ahero is 13-25 (75kg) bags per 0.4ha when it should be 20-30 bags; while the yield for Sindano rice is 15-30 bags, when it should be more than 30 bags.

At the start of operations in 1969, the Ahero Irrigation Scheme had 519 farmers, each with 1.6ha held on trust by the government. The farmers have since sub-divided their farms among their children but they are not allowed to sub-divide below 0.4ha or sell the land.

In 2009, a farmer-oriented funding arrangement, known as the Revolving Fund, was set up to support the farmers’ production and marketing efforts.

Jacob Ongere, a farmer at the Ahero scheme and an extension officer with the Ministry of Agriculture, told IRIN that with the Revolving Fund and the government’s Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), things were now looking up.

“The profit that farmers are making is still way below average but we hope this will change with more funding and support in sectors such as marketing and capacity-building,” he said.

Through the Revolving Fund Office, Ongere said, the Ahero farmers hope to boost their livelihoods by “exploiting agronomical practices” to improve their yields – transplanting on time and using pesticides and fungicides.


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


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