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Rice farmers yet to recover from heavy flooding losses

Farmers at Lower Kuja irrigation scheme in Migori County. Floods destroyed 100 per cent of rice in the scheme early this year. [Kevine Omollo, Standard]

Farmers in Bunyala and Lower Kuja irrigation schemes head back to their farms after losing an entire crop of rice to floods.

The floods, which ran until May, halted farming activities in the two schemes and displaced hundreds of families.

A report by the National Irrigation Authority puts losses incurred by farmers at Sh150 million.

The authority incurred losses of up to Sh120 million in damaged assets and will require millions of shillings to repair dykes and infrastructure. Bunyala farmers incurred losses of Sh70 million while the irrigation infrastructure losses amounted to about Sh60 million.

Bunyala irrigation scheme has 2,144 acres of land under rice. The scheme sits at the border between Siaya and Busia counties.

Lower Kuja irrigation scheme consists of 2,500 acres located in Migori County.

For the last few weeks, farmers in both schemes have been returning to the farms after flood waters subsided.

The farmers have appealed to the government to help them revive damaged farms.

“I lost everything and I have not been able to get my farm where it was before the floods,” said Maurice Nekesa, a farmer at Bunyala irrigation scheme

Although he has secured a small loan to try and get his 12-acre farm back to production, he is not sure it will be enough.

“I have returned to the farm, but I might not manage to have all of it running immediately because I do not have enough money,” said Nekesa.

Another farmer, Suzzan Beryl, said reviving her farm had drained the last of her savings. “Our appeal is that the government intervenes so that we can get back on our feet. The losses were huge and many people might not manage to raise enough money to get back to rice production soon,” she said.

At Lower Kuja irrigation scheme, desperate farmers are trying to jointly raise money to help them revive destroyed farms.

“This was the worst flooding we have ever experienced. We lost everything because it came at a time the rice was nearly ready for harvesting,” said Jared Otieno.

Bunyala irrigation scheme manager Edwin Manyonge said 70 per cent of farmers have returned to their farms but were facing enormous financial challenges.

According to Manyonge, the scheme’s management is only supporting 10 per cent of the production cost, leaving the rest of the costs to farmers.

“What we did for the farmers as a scheme was to waive the Sh4,000 charged per acre for irrigation services. The rest has always been supported by the government, but now farmers have decided to chip in because they cannot continue waiting for the government’s intervention,” said Manyonge.

Farmers who cannot raise the production costs have chosen to wait for the government’s intervention.

The damage on irrigation infrastructure is expected to slow the two schemes’ expansion plans, which had begun early this year.

Before the floods, the National Irrigation Authority was working on a programme to expand Bunyala irrigation scheme from 2,144 acres to 20,000.

The Lower Nzoia Irrigation Development Project is expected to put 10,000 acres on the left bank of River Nzoia under irrigation in the first phase.

The second phase is expected to put another 10,000 under irrigation on the right bank.

The left bank covers Muluwa, Nemali, Munaka, Luwamoro, Nanjomi, Buhowa and Siamungu, while the right bank covers Ruambwa and Mudembi.

“There is need to increase irrigated agriculture in the region to urgently boost food production as per the government’s Big Four Agenda. Bunyala irrigation scheme has a potential of about 20,000 acres. However, only 10 per cent of this has been utilised,” stated the NIA’s assessment report.

At Lower Kuja, the scheme’s manager, Nesline Ogwe, is working with farmers to find a solution to the damages inflicted by flooding.

“There is little we can do because the flooding was a natural disaster, but we can still pick up the pieces if we work together,” she said.

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