Sh12.6b Japan loan to boost Mwea rice production
By John Oyuke
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has approved a Sh12.6 billion ($156m) loan to Kenya to finance an irrigation development project in the Mwea region, which produces over 50 percent of Kenya’s rice.
The project, expected to be completed in November 2016, will strengthen the local capacity to operate, maintain, and manage core irrigation infrastructure, and improve irrigation facilities to provide a stable supply of water.
According to the plan, the scheme should allow for double cropping (two harvests per year) of rice and horticultural crops, as well as expand the total cultivated area from 7,860 to 16,920 hectares.
A JICA statement said the project aims at improving food security in Kenya, as well as boost the livelihoods of farmers.
Because the country depends primarily on rain-fed agriculture, crop production is susceptible to weather conditions. The country has been beset by droughts and food shortages in the past, making the development of irrigation a key development target.
The Yokohama Action Plan, put forth at the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), advocated for the improvement of Africa’s food production capacity, and agricultural productivity. Based on that call to action, JICA is promoting the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), an initiative to double rice production in Africa within 10 years.
Within the CARD initiative, the agency added, the Kenyan government will boost domestic rice production from 73,000 tons in 2008 to 178,000 tons within 10 years.
The development of the Mwea irrigation area, to which this JICA project contributes, is a national flagship project within the Kenyan government’s ‘Vision 2030’.
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