Kerugoya, Kenya, Jan 26 – Rice farmers in the expansive Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kirinyaga County have been urged to embrace a new hybrid variety that is resistant to climate change and high-yielding to boost production.
During a farmers’ field day at Mwea rice farms in Kirinyaga County organised by African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), World Science Alliance, Integrated Community Organisation for Sustainable Empowerment and Education for Development (ICOSEED), the farmers were taken through various new hybrids of rice which do well in both highland and lowland.
Emmanuel Omogeni from AATF said the new hybrids had improved yield which can double the current breeds.
He added that they have tested the hybrids and they are highly adaptive to the climatic conditions of Mwea.
“We have tested and they are highly adaptable to different climatic conditions. They will improve farmers’ economic status as well as having food for themselves and the entire country. The new hybrid seeds are cheaper than other types and already available in the market,” Omogeni said.
Mugo Makanga, from ICOSEED said they partnered with AATF to assist farmers in trials on new hybrids and their assessment shows that the new variety has done well with over 50 per cent output compared with older varieties.
He further urged the government to assist the farmers to acquire seeds as well as fertilisers to increase rice production in the country.
“We have come to assess the value of the new hybrid variety partnering with AATF on trials in various farms in Mwea. The results are that they produce almost double that of those varieties majorly planted here. The government should assist the farmers to get the seeds and fertilizers, we are importing more rice than what we produce meaning we take our money to foreign farmers,” he said.
“Research by agricultural scientists has shown that the new hybrids have no effects on human health,” Mugo said.
Dr Sheila Ochugboju, Chief Executive Director Alliance for Science said they are promoting access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability, and raising the quality of life globally.
She said they help farmers to access accurate information on seeds, and soils and demystify all misinformation about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
She lauded the government’s move on lifting the GMO ban saying that thorough research has been done with the inclusion of African scientists.
Ochugboju noted that farmers have no time to waste due to climate change and they are desperate for solutions. She said new hybrids offer higher yields and are resistant to pests, diseases and drought.
“We focus on supporting food security activities and helping Kenya feed herself. We want to ensure farmers get the right information on soils and seeds; a lot has been said of GMOs may be due to ignorance but we are try to counter this information by telling the farmers the truth from a research point of view.”
“There is no time to waste, we must get solutions to effects on climate change, Africans are participating in research of GMOs and more are being trained to help our farmers,” she said.
Lewis Mutisya, a farmer who has planted a trial seed of a new hybrid, said he has benefited from the high production from the hybrid.
He however noted that there are common challenges that normally come with rice production such as extremely little water and the high cost of fertilisers.
Mutisya call upon the government to deploy more extension officers to give expertise to farmers so that they can embrace new hybrids.