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Teams tips rice farmers on new skills

By | September 11th 2009

By Kepher Otieno

Rice farmers may soon smile all the way to the banks.

This follows a move by the International Rice Research Institute to partner with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in offering training on new rice farming technologies.

The move is aimed at helping small-scale farmers boost yields and in the long run, increase returns .

Yesterday, Kari Assistant Director Joseph Ochieng’ said: "We want local scientists to gain skills and turn them into viable practices beneficial to farmers."

New means

The institute targets to improve yield by more than 50 per cent in the next 10 years once they begin applying the new technologies.

An IRRI official from Philippines David Shires said the move would develop improved varieties that can grow in rain fed ecosystems.

"This is why IRRI has partnered with research institutes across the world to produce technologies that have great potential to step up rice farming," he said.

Shires said IRRI targets 2.7 billion rice consumers in Asia, Europe and sub Saharan Africa to benefit from the initiative.

Already, there are more than 100 million rice farmers globally benefiting from the knowledge through sustainable production of quality rice.

Shires said a major challenge for IRRI partner countries like Kenya was to help the 250,000 extension officers introduce new technologies to farmers.

At the same time, IRRI has enlisted the use of Information Technology to organise, store and deliver knowledge to farmers who can dub the skills.

"This is why we developed Rice Knowledge Bank, a leading ICT-based repository of rice extension and training knowledge, which allow the community to access and share information," he added.

Shires spoke at a Rice Knowledge Bank workshop in Kisumu.

Kenya Agricultural Research Institute Kibos centre director Kenneth Otieno was also present.

About 95 per cent of rice in Kenya is grown under irrigation schemes, while the remaining 5 per cent grown under rain-fed conditions.

Domestic use

National rice production over the last seven years has been in the range of 45,000 to 80,000 metric tones a year against the domestic consumption of 300,000 metric tones.

The deficit is met through imports, which costs an estimated 25.5 billion.

The initiative is good news to farmers as the country continues battling production challenges brought about by drought.

The country is experiencing a severe food shortage and requires at least 9 million bags of maize to feed hungry mouths

Except for western highlands, Lake Basin and parts of central Rift Valley, chances of crop rejuvenation are low, according to Government statistics.

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