Ahero rice farmers 60-year quest for market lingers

Farmers dry their paddy rice at Ahero Irrigation scheme. Rice farmers at the scheme are now stuck with their commodity due to lack of market. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Six decades after the establishment of the Ahero Irrigation Scheme, farmers are still struggling to find a stable market for their produce.

Ahero, which gets its Irrigation water from River Nyando, currently has a total acreage of 4,768 from the initial acreage of 2, 168 at its inception in the 1960s.

Today, over 2,000 farmers and 30,000 dependents benefit from rice farming in the scheme.

On the other hand, West Kano gets its irrigation water from Lake Victoria and currently covers 2, 830 acres, which benefit 780 farm holders, 2,200 farmers and 20,000 dependents.

Ahero Irrigation Scheme had only supplied Sh12 million worth of rice, out of the Sh70 million worth of harvest farmers got last year. 

Due to a lack of a ready market for their produce, farmers have been left to hawk it on the highways around Ahero or at the town’s busy market. “After working in the rice plantation for several years, I began selling rice in 1998, but the fact is that nothing much has changed,” said Dorcas Auma, a trader at the market.

The mother of four says they are being edged out by cheaper rice imports, with the locally produced rice seen as sub-standard.

“With no packaging and proper marketing, we are only left to sell to sell to locals,” she said.

Western Kenya irrigation schemes, including Ahero, West Kano, Mbega, Kobongó and South West Kano, produce a non-aromatic variety of rice.

Currently, at least 500 tonnes of paddy rice is lying at the Ahero National Irrigation Authority (NIA) stores due to lack of market.

Ahero Multipurpose Farmers Society Chairman Emmanuel Juma said the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC), which has been the main buyer of their rice, no longer takes any more of the produce.

But why is Ahero rice missing from the retail shop shelves since the start of production in 1969?

KNTC attributes this to the low quality of rice produced in the region.

“We have in the past had a problem marketing the rice from Western Kenya Irrigation Scheme because of quality,” he said.