Hundreds of rice farmers in Taita Taveta are hoping for better yields this year following the introduction of drought-tolerant rice varieties by the County government.
According to the county Agriculture executive, Dr Davis Mwangoma, the new variety would triple rice production in the area from the current 4,600 tonnes to 12,000 tonnes per year.
He said the new variety also meets the food and nutrition demands of both local and international markets. Rice is the main cash crop in aita sub-county.
The crop was introduced to the area by the white settlers to feed the British soldiers who were fighting the Germans from Tanzania during the First World War.
- Global shocks push more than 1.4 million Kenyans into poverty
- Pump prices unchanged as State ups subsidy
- Kisumu residents shift to kitchen gardens as high cost of living bites
- Unpacking ugali, Kenya's most popular staple food
Mwangoma said the new variety would be produced for the mass market to reduce the county and country’s reliance on imports.
He said the variety can also be grown in non-traditional rice growing areas as it requires less water, making it suitable for both irrigated and rain-fed lowland areas.
“We are set to triple the rice production annually in a bid to achieve the nutrition, food security and income of the local community,” Mwangoma said.
The CEC said the county was working with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) and Taita-Taveta University (TTU) for sustainability purposes.
“The county administration in collaboration with TTU is also carrying out performance trials of the best-suited rice variety in the whole county. The varieties include rain-fed upland rice and paddy rice which relies on irrigation,” he said.
Currently, local farmers grow Japan and Saro series rice varieties, said Mwangoma, adding the new variety comes as the county is still grappling with persistent food shortages.
“We have also partnered with the national government in developing a mechanism to not only produce more rice in the area but also salvage farmers from exploitation by middlemen who have been purchasing the produce cheaply and selling at exorbitant rates,” said Mwangoma.
Leonard Amir, a rice farmer in Kitobo village in Taita complained to Mwangoma that they have been exploited by middlemen from Tanzania for years for lack of market opportunities.