KENYA – Kenya has embarked on a 5-year plan to increase the acreage under rice production in the country by at least 100,000 acres as part of its efforts to achieve rice self-sufficiency, Joel Tanui, Chief Operating Office at the National Irrigation Authority has revealed.

Currently, Kenya imports 80% of its rice from Asia and Tanzania to meet the demand for rice consumption which is estimated at 20.6 kilos per capita.

According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya imported 630,910 tonnes of rice last year valued at Ksh31.14 billion ($252.9 million). Only 186,000 tonnes of rice paddy were produced locally.

Tanui said that increasing rice production hectarage will bridge the consumption deficit of rice in the country.

“Our major responsibility is to ensure that farmers are producing enough maize and rice to feed Kenyans. This year alone, we have a target of expanding the area under irrigation specifically for rice by 20,000 acres,” he said.

Tanui mentioned that apart from the expansion and rehabilitation of existing irrigation schemes, the government is promoting the introduction of high-yielding rice varieties.

The proposed new varieties are climate-smart and have already been launched in the Hola irrigation scheme by the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

To affirm this, Dr. Ruth Musila, a rice breeder from KALRO says they have adopted and are breeding climate smart high yielding rice varieties which are on trial in 26 locations distributed in Central, Western, Coastal regions, and Tana River.

According to Dr. Musila, if the country embraces the new varieties, there is a bright future when it comes to rice production. From the developed 9 new lines, 5 of them are drought tolerant 2 are saline tolerant and 2 others are tolerant to flooding.

The superior line ‘Komboka,’ already introduced to Mwea and Bura rice irrigation schemes has realized high yielding of between 38 to 50 bags per acre compared to the old Basmati rice at 25 kgs per acre.

Apart from rice, the government is also keen in bringing more crops under irrigation to mitigate against climate change which is adversely impacting crops under rain-fed agriculture.

According to the National Irrigation Board (NIB), the country’s irrigation farming potential is estimated at 1.3 million hectares but only 162,000 hectares have been developed to boost food security.

To exploit agricultural potential, Coast Development Authority (CDA) set up the 220-acre solar-powered agriculture project in 2019 in the arid Chakama location that is prone to famine as rain-fed farming is no longer viable.

CDA Managing Director Dr. Mohamed Keinan says CDA is spending Sh. 33 million to establish solar irrigation systems in Gava, Kibora, and Kanduru all in Kilifi County due to increased demand for irrigated agriculture in the region.

He says CDA will speed up the 800 acres irrigation scheme projects in the entire coastal region to enhance diversification and food security and assist 200 small-scale farmers to get more value from farming.

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