Rice production at Mwea scheme falls to lowest level of 35 tonnes

A researcher inspects a rice farm at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, Mwea sub-station. [PHOTO: MUNENE KAMAU/STANDARD]
Rice production at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme has dropped to its lowest level since establishment in 1956.

The scheme has since the early 90s been producing an average of 80,000 tonnes per year, according to the area National Irrigation Board manager Innocent Ariemba.

But during the just ended harvesting season, the scheme produced 35,520 metric tonnes only.

"The poor harvest translates into a shortfall of 45,880 tonnes, a phenomenon never seen around this scheme in recent times," said Mr Ariemba.

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He said that in the past years just after harvesting, paddy rice retailed at Sh40 per kilogramme but has shot up to Sh80 just two weeks after the harvesting season, and is expected to skyrocket to Sh150 by end of this week.

Most of the farmers lost their harvest after irrigation water dried up, while others only managed two or three bags per acre down from 30 bags in normal circumstances.

The mostly affected farmers by the water shortage were those from Karaba, Ciagini, Wamumu and Mutithi sections.

A farmer at Wamumu, James Mutugi, said his entire crop weathered soon after planting when the canal that supplies water to the area dried up.

"I have been a farmer at this scheme for over three decades and I have never witnessed such a massive crop failure due to lack of irrigation water. We do not have anything to feed on as a result," he said.

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The dependency on rain-fed agriculture has been blamed for the sharp decline of the production after the rains failed.

Water levels are at their lowest with some almost drying up leading to scramble for the little available for domestic use especially for Ciagini and Karaba villages within the scheme.

Ariemba said the long rains, which were expected in April last year, were erratic meaning no rivers got flooded like it used to be in other seasons.

"When the short rains came, the distribution was the poorest ever but the farmers planted their crop only to realise the canals that supply them with water had dried up," he said.

Due to the prevailing drought, the ratoon crop, which farmers benefit from after the main harvest is also not forthcoming making the situation even worse.

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Nancy Wambui, a farmer, said the shortfall has given a window for the importation of cheap rice.

Mwea Irrigation SchemeNational Irrigation BoardRice