Kenya: Why Bura Farmers Are Ditching Maize for Rice

Farmers at the Bura irrigation scheme are increasingly abandoning maize to venture into the more lucrative rice farming.

At least 90 farmers have joined rice farming owing to the minimal costs of production, a ready market and convenient payments.

Speaking to the Nation, the farmers noted that, unlike maize farming, rice production guarantees them big returns.

"We have a market right here; the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) buys our produce straight from the farm unlike maize that one needs to transport only to be told the quality has been affected on the road," said Stephen Jaramba, a farmer.

According to Mr Jaramba, some farmers have suffered huge losses and sunk into depression owing to poor returns on maize.

As a result, more than 250 farmers leased out their farms to foreign investors and have been working as labourers in those farms.

"The Komboka variety of rice has popped eyes. After the first harvest, farmers who were already out of business are tracing their way back to the farm," he said.

Ditched maize for rice

Peter Mburu, one of the farmers who has ditched maize for rice, predicts that the venture is likely to attract more than 200 farmers by August.

He notes that Bura Irrigation Scheme is likely to become a pure rice production field if all conditions remain constant.

"For the first time, there are no cartels involved in the production process between the farmer and the market. It is very transparent," he says.

A kilogramme of the new Komboka rice sells at Sh40, with farmers harvesting 40-50 bags of 90 kilogrammes rice from a 1.5 acre of land.

Scheme Agronomist Job Umanga notes that more than 200 farmers have shown interest in rice production ahead of the August season.

According to the agronomist, the management looks forward to putting more than 2,500 acres under rice production.

"We have started clearing land for expansion. There are farmers who want to expand their production from an acre to five acres hence we have to prepare for that," he noted.

Mr Umanga noted that the irrigation scheme is recovering from a devastating season that saw most farmers quit the enterprise.

Currently, 1,200 acres of the scheme are under rice production funded by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Oraganization.

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