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Mwea rice farmers say heavy downpour a relief for their crop

Monday September 2 2019

Rice paddies at Mwea Irrigation Scheme

Rice paddies at Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kirinyaga County. Farmers whose rice had started drying up due to an acute water shortage that had hit the giant scheme are a relieved lot following a heavy downpour. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GEORGE MUNENE
By GEORGE MUNENE
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Farmers in Kirinyaga County whose rice had started drying up due to an acute water shortage that had hit the giant Mwea Irrigation Scheme are a relieved lot following a heavy downpour.

The rains come at time when the farmers expressed fears of a possible low production of rice in the area.

Jubilant farmers Monday told the Nation that the rains that flooded the dry rice fields took them by surprise, giving them hope of getting good harvests.

HARVEST

"If the rains continue pounding the area our crop will mature and we will harvest it," said Mr Simon Njogu.

There has been inadequate supply of water for irrigation following a prolonged dry spell and farmers had expressed fears that production would fall drastically this season.

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Levels in major rivers in Kirinyaga which supply water for irrigation to the scheme had gone down and farmers were worried of low rice harvests which would lead to escalating of prices.

Water flowing into the rivers stood at six cubic metres and could not sustain rice farming in the 26,000-acre Mwea Scheme.

AFFECTED AREAS

For rice to do well, water flowing in rivers should be at least 11.3 cubic metres.

The most hit areas were Wamumu, Karaba, Mutithi, Ndindiruku and Nguka where rice is grown in large scale.

When there is enough water and the climate is favourable, farmers produce one million bags of rice in a season, which translates to Sh7 billion in earnings.

The farmers have petitioned the government to speed up the building of the Sh20 billion Thiba dam to mitigate water problems in the Scheme.

Mwea Scheme is the largest in Kenya and produces 80 percent of rice consumed in the country.

It is being expanded to produce enough rice for local consumption and surplus for export.