More than 7,022 farmers from Mwea Irrigation Scheme are set to benefit from a programme which aims to use rice husks and stalks to make hay, block boards and ceiling boards among other products saving farmers problems of disposing the rice by-products which has faced them for over 64 years now.
Kirinyaga County government which pursuing a solution to this problem is seeking a partnership with a private firm which will help process the by-products into useful products to earn farmers more income.
“We are engaging a private company to help our farmers add value to rice husks and stalks which they normally burn when they want to plant rice in the subsequent season. This will enable them earn additional cash and relieve them the stress on where to take them after harvesting,” said Deputy Governor Peter Ndambiri.
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Although farmers can turn rice husks into manure to use in the farm, they will need to let them decompose for the carbon which is used by plants to make their own food to be available a process which takes 4-8 weeks.
Hay production for instance is estimated to be a multi-million-shilling business as this will be an advantage for farmers over the shortage of pasture due to prolonged drought that has hit many parts of the country.
Despite low nutritional value in rice stalks, already the demand is high from farmers keeping livestock due to the dry period experienced in the country country.
“We are now selling some of these stalks because livestock farmers need them for their animals as there is no enough pasture but we hope more will be added to it when it is finally turned into a complete animal feed,” said Julius Murutu, Mwea rice farmer.
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According to cop experts rice husks could also be used in cement manufacturing and production of high charcoal briquettes which cannot cause harm to the environment and are affordable.
“Though Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) centre in Mwea has also started manufacturing charcoal briquettes, the product is yet to be commercialized in order to benefit farmers,” said Ben Musyoki, research technologist at KALRO.
Another rice by-product, bran, which is key ingredient in animals’ feed is also manufactured by four main rice milers in the county owned by National Irrigation Board namely National Cereals and Produce Board, Nice Rice Milers and the Mwea Multipurpose Sacco.
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For more information, call Mr. Ariemba Innocent on +254 726760731