by Ejidiah Wangui
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Mercy Nyokabi
wades through a swampy ground trying to chase away a flock of
birds having a field day on her farm in rice growing region of
Mwea in Central Kenya.
Nyokabi who inherited the rice
farm from her parents, said dwindling harvests have been her
biggest nightmare. She partly blames the birds but she believes
that erratic weather also contributes to the woe.
"The last two years have been the hardest, I barely get a ton
from an acre piece of land yet a few years ago we used to get
over 30 tons from the same piece of land.
"This area is suitable for rice farming which makes it hard
for us to switch to other crops," said Nyokabi.
Her woes are likely to be eased as Yara, a global fertilizer
manufacturer together with the Kenya’s Irrigation Board have
commissioned a research to establish the cause of the declining
The investigations are aimed at finding out the amount of
damage caused by fertilizers and farm chemicals in the rice
For instance, Nyokabi still follows the same script her
parents used decades ago which Kefa Maranga, an agronomist with
Yara attributes to the prevailing situation.
"All what the rice growers are complaining about is as a
result of rising soil acidity due to continued use of
fertilizers and general poor farming ethic," said Maranga.
He pointed out that continued use of farm chemicals erodes
soil of some of the crucial nutrients that plants need for
growth and maximum production.
"When crops are starved of this nutrients they tend to stunt
and the few that mature produce poorly which is evident in most
of the farms here in Mwea.
"Most crops have a yellowish look which is a clear sign of
unhealthy soils, we hope the investigations will lead us to a
solution soon," he added.
Notably, most rice farmers in the region use ammonium-based
fertilizers that also have high amounts of sulphur which
acidifies the soil after continued use for a long time.
"Most fertilizers the farmers use have as high as 24 per cent
of sulphur compared to the required 5.5 per cent.
"These chemicals have been piling up in the soil which I
think is the greatest threat to the farmers right now," said
Despite Kenya having the capacity to produce enough rice to
meet the current demand, the country relies heavily on imports
from Pakistan, Vietnam, Thailand and India.
Notably, rice is Kenya’s third staple food after maize and
wheat and production is estimated at between 33,000 and 50,000
metric tons, while consumption is between 180,000 and 250,000
Africa Rice Center
launches new project to improve food security
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
An African research center said Monday it has
launched a new rice project that targets to benefit 300,000
households in Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar.
Africa Rice Center said the project which is expected to
enhance income and food security will adapt appropriate rice
technologies and innovations to address emerging rice value
The project which will improve productivity and
competitiveness of domestic rice will run for three years, said
Paul Kiepe, head of research planning and coordination with the
Africa Rice Center.
"The project is aimed at contributing to the development of
the rice value chain in East Africa with focus to women and
youths," Kiepe said during the launch in Nairobi.
He added that the project will involve multi stakeholders’
innovation platforms in strengthening functional linkages among
rice value chain actors and to improve capacity of farmers.
Kiepe observed that since Kenya has risen to be the newest
middle income country in the region, the country must seriously
act to increasing its production and reduce the huge import
"The project will generate ample cross country learning
cases, and indicate forms of collaboration that will effectively
and sustainably contribute to each country’s growth and the rice
development in the region," he added.
The researcher said that the private sector will be involved
in the production and dissemination of new varieties to be
widely adopted by the farming community.
The project that is funded by the International Fund for
Agricultural Development is meant at improving the local supply
of rice since the East African region imports the commodity
amounting to 500 million U.S. dollars annually.
"The project will help Kenya achieve 100 percent food and
nutrition security of populations, create employment and wealth
to many stakeholders," Mwangi Kiunjuri, cabinet secretary for
agriculture, livestock and fisheries.
Kiunjuri noted that it is expected that the project will help
Kenya meet the deficit that stands at 400,000 metric tons
annually since farmers locally produce 70,000-80,000 metric tons
He noted that Kenya has the potential and capacity if
harnessed to not only be self sufficient in rice but to also be
Kenyan smallholder farmers
root for value addition to boost incomes
by Robert Manyara NAKURU (Xinhua) --
Ephraim Maina, a Kenyan kales farmer, sells a
bundle of the green vegetables for 50 shillings (0.5 U.S.
dollar) during the low supply drought season often running from
November to early April.
The small-scale farmer, who is based in Nakuru County, trades
the similar quantity for 0.1 dollar after the rains come and the
market is flooded with plenty of supply.
"When you sell at 0.1 dollars, you are not talking about
"You are just giving it away instead of seeing it go to
waste," said Maina.
"But I would be maintaining the same profit or even make more
if I had a means of adding value to it and export it to other
countries like Netherlands or China," he added.
When there is a glut, he would collect the kales, process
them, hoard them and sell them at a better price, especially
during drought when the vegetables are scarce, posed the farmer
in his 50s.
He hopes for a training on processing of kales into multiple
products and a grant to buy machines to start off.
"Our government can engage Chinese experts to train Kenyan
farmers in the rural areas since China has advanced technology
and conducts research on food production.
"And through the scientists, we can access Chinese market,"
noted the farmer.
Sharon Cheruto, who has practiced potato farming in Nakuru
County for the past four years, shares the same burden of
selling the produce at a loss during high supply season.
"Brokers buy a 120 kg sack of potatoes for 8 dollars when
many farmers are harvesting at the same time and they have a
choice of whom to buy from.
"They set the price and you have no bargaining power.
"You’d rather sell at a loss instead of incurring a total
loss," said Cheruto.
The farmer said, she is yearning for skills and information
on how to boost her income through adding value to the potatoes
instead of selling them raw.
"The government should make an effort to help farmers like me
make good profits from our farming.
"We hear through the radio, government officials asking
farmers to add value to their produce to earn a good income
throughout the year, but how can we do that if we don’t have the
skills and information on how to do so?" posed Cheruto.
Experts observe that many farmers in Kenya continue to reel
in poverty as they are unable to make good returns since they
sell raw perishable produce.
"For instance, a farmer can harvest all the kales when there
is plenty in the market and process it to sell it when the
season is good instead of selling it at a throw away price,"
said Kennedy Sigei, an agricultural economist.
"It not just about lost income but lost inputs taking into
account there is use of fertilizer, pesticides and even labor,"
The Kenyan government foresees boosting agricultural
productivity and farmers’ income through processing of farm
produce for local and export market.
This aspiration is highlighted in the 2019-2029 Agricultural
Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS) by Ministry of
Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation where the
government outlines plans for establishing six agro-processing
hubs to assist farmers in adding value to their produce.