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Japan signs Sh13 billion loan for Mwea scheme expansion

BUSINESS
By | March 23rd 2012

By MUNENEKAMAU

The Japanese government has signed a Sh13 billion loan to expand Mwea irrigation scheme in Kirinyaga County.

Japan Ambassador to Kenya Toshihisa Takata revealed on Friday that the credit would be used to construct a major water reservoir to boost rice production in the scheme.

He pointed out that Kenya has to diversify crop production to boost food security and stop over relying on rice imports when the commodity could be grown locally.

Takata said the loan will also assist farmers in adopting the latest technology in growing the cereal as well as improve marketing of the produce.

"Rice imports to Kenya are quite big and they are increasing. Production must be boosted to cut down on the same which will also boost food security," the envoy said .

The ambassador spoke to journalists at the Mwea Irrigation and Agriculture Development Centre (MIAD) in Kandongu after an extensive tour of the 30,000 acre irrigation scheme.

Kenya spends up to Sh7 billion annually to import rice mainly from Asian countries with Mwea scheme producing over 42,000 metric tonnes of rice every year which represent 80 percent of local production.

National Irrigation Board (NIB) which is implementing the expansion project is currently working a resettlement plan to move 300 families in Gichugu constituency where a 10 square kilometre water reservoir will be constructed.

NIB Mwea Scheme Manager Hosea Wendot said an additional 8,000 acres of land will be put under rice production once the expansion is completed in the next four years.

"We expect production to double with over 80,000 metric tonnes of rice to be produced since farmers will grow the crop twice a year after the water shortage problem is addressed," said the manager.

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