KENYA – In the quest to boost rice production, the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) has requisitioned a modern electric pump for installation at the 5, 000-acre West Kano Irrigation Scheme in Kisumu County, Kenya News Agency reports.

Joel Tanui, NIA Acting Deputy General Manager in charge of operations and irrigation management services said the funds for the initiative had already been allocated in the 2023-2024 financial year’s budget.

This comes after the recent announcement that the country 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.

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.

The scheme, situated in the Kano plains, was established in 1974 and serves more than 900 farmers producing approximately 7,900 metric tonnes of rice annually.

Tanui revealed that the initiative was set to maximize pumping efficiency and open up more land for irrigation in the scheme to scale up rice production.

According to him, the decision to install a new pump at the scheme follows a public outcry from farmers who petitioned the NIA to return the pump to open up blocks of the vast scheme which have been cut off following the recent floods experienced in the area.

However, in 2006, the pump which used to serve the scheme was moved to Ahero Irrigation Scheme in a bid to stabilize the water supply and save a crop worth millions of shillings.

“At that time we were experiencing a big challenge at Ahero Irrigation Scheme which threatened to destroy rice worth Sh. 600 million. That is why we decided to move the pump,” Tanui said while appearing before the National Assembly Public Petitions Committee sitting at the scheme.

He also acknowledged that NIA was aware of the plight of farmers in Kano adding that the procurement process for the new pump is set to begin in July to ensure that it is fitted before the end of the year.

“The pumps are not available locally. We source them from South Africa and Germany which takes three to four months,” he said.

The Public Petitions Committee Vice Chairperson Janet Sitienei asked NIA to expedite the procurement process and ensure the new pump is fixed to support farmers in the area.

“These farmers are ready and willing to produce rice. Rice is a very important food crop in the country and we must support them fully,” she said.

According to NIA, the agency is committed to scaling up irrigation to boost food security in the country adding that measures have been put in place to modernize operations at the scheme.

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