Rice farmers from Busia County in Western Kenya who for a long time have relied on traditional and manually operated tools to grow the crop have received one rice milling and two auto-grading machines, four weeders and other assorted equipment that will enable them to increase their production.
This follows collaborative efforts between Busia County, National and Venezuela Governments, and Food and Agricultural Organization in Kenya in a rice promotion program by the national government to boost the crop production in Kenya and bridge the importation gap.
“With this mill to be managed by Bunyala Rice Farmers Cooperative Society Limited, we also expect another mill for Lower Nzoia project that will be managed by Magombe Multi-purpose Cooperative Society to enhance value addition to Busia rice,” said Moses Mulomi, Busia Deputy Governor.
According to him, rice mechanization will bring to an end the culture where unprocessed rice from the county finds its way to neighbouring Uganda where it undergoes value addition.
“Value addition on rice produced within the county will now be carried out and with packed rice finding its way on retail shops and supermarkets across the county, thus boosting the farmers’ incomes and the economy of the county.”
The DG said apart from Busia brand rice, farmers will be able to get value addition from rice husks including chicken, fish and animal feeds, utilization of straws for amongst other value addition activities that can make us utilize all the rice products and “wastes”.
Venezuela Ambassador to Kenya Jesus Manzanilla said the aim of the partnership is to ease the burden and ensure high productivity of rice not only in Busia but in Kenya as a whole.
“I am very happy that the government of Venezuela can contribute to this program; we shall continue to conduct capacity building and exchange programs to better the outcome,” he said.
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Jane Ndungu from the National Government said that the per capita consumption of rice has risen to 20.6 per cent from 13 per cent having imported rice worth Sh27 billion in 2017, noting that they are charged with the responsibility of bridging the importation gap, thus the need for support.
“Rice is now a strategic food item that the National Government has taken as one of its Big Four Agenda. We want Busia County to add value to rice production and uptake their rice in marketing,” she said.
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The FAO representative Dr. Tobias Takavarasha said that they have aligned their programs with specialized technical agencies of the UN to support in terms of capacity building and knowledge sharing to address the importance of mechanization to reduce production costs, post-harvest losses and to improve productivity.