Save our farms: Rice farmers pay the high cost of climate change

When Joshua Buodo ventured into rice farming in the late 1990s, he knew that the venture would be the game-changer for his family’s fortunes.

Mr. Buodo had high hopes as his friends and neighbours who had invested in rice farming were doing well.

And it was a rosy start for him as he made profits of almost Sh65,000 for every acre of rice he planted. However, this didn't last long.

Buodo is now among thousands of rice farmers in the vast Nyando rice belt who are feeling the pinch of erratic weather patterns.

So dire is the situation that some of the farmers have now opted to ditch rice farming.

From frequent floods, huge hailstones destroying mature rice due for harvesting, thick water hyacinth blocking irrigation waterways to long periods of dry spells, there seems to be no reprieve for rice farmers.

The situation has also been worsened by rogue middlemen who take advantage of the farmers' desperation to purchase the produce at a cheaper price.

“It has not been easy for us. I lost one of my farms recently to floods, all the crops were destroyed,” said Buodo.

For Buodo, the decline in production has been gradual. In the last two years, he has lost not only his farms but also his home after backflow from the lake swept through his home last year.

He has now shifted his attention to watermelon and tomato farming with the hopes that the weather patterns will not dent his confidence in farming again.

At Nyamware in Kadibo, several rice farms are still inaccessible after the rising waters of Lake Victoria swept through them destroying crops and seedlings in the process.

Although perennial floods have been a norm in the vast Nyando plains, rice farmers are bearing the brunt of the floods.

In West Kano, farmers are yet to recover after large swathes of rice fields were washed away by water from the swelling lake Victoria in 2020.

Most of the farms and surrounding homes are still submerged to date and are inaccessible.

Maureen Awino, also a farmer told The Standard last she couldn't access her farm for several months due to floods.

According to Awino, hailstones have also been a big challenge as for the last few years they hit when they are about to harvest rice. 

“Last year, I invested Sh50,000 in an acre of rice but got nothing from it because hailstones destroyed my farm,” she said.

She says the situation was not different in 2020.

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Rice farmers climate change