A new rice variety has farmers in Kenya excited, as it could produce double the yield of basmati rice to one hectare of land. The hybrid strain, which is high-producing, early maturing, and disease resistant, can produce up to 54 bags of paddy rice per acre, compared to 30 bags for the basmati crop.
This was announced by Dr Mary Mutembei, the head of the country’s rice programme and crop scientist, during a field day in Mwea East, Kirinyaga County. Here, farmers were undergoing a trial to properly test and yield and resilience of the grain. According to her, the rice is of the same quality as that grown in Pakistan.
As the variety matures when the tillers are still relatively short from the ground, it is less prone to lodging than other types.
The projects is being funded by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation in both Tanzania and Kenya, with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) coordinating its completion.
The foundation has committed to a sum of USD4 353 228 for the programme, which has been ongoing since 2018.
Farmers urged to switch to new seed
The AATF is a non-profit organisation run and directed by Africans for Africans that aims to develop sustainable and innovative approaches to agribusiness, according to its website.
Their objective is to assist farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa who need agricultural assistance in locating the tools and resources they need to participate in modern markets. The AATF promote innovative technologies, fosters relationships between institutions and farmers, and much more in order to achieve its purpose.
Emmanuel Okogbenin, the AATF’s director of programme and commercialisation, said that the two countries will only benefit from not being reliant on imported rice.
“This being the market force, I do not see why Kenyan farmers who are well-known for the aromatic pishori for many years should not be able to venture into the new variety which is not only high yielding but aromatic as well,” he said.
“In this regard, I am urging farmers to buy their certified seed for this variety from authorised dealers and should not under any circumstance recycle the seed from a past crop as this will only give back a minimal disease and pest-invested harvest,” he added.
With this variety of aromatic rice, the field must only be flooded for seven days and left dry for a month to ensure the best results. The trial encouraged farmers to switch over to the new seed, and there are reports that many have now started land preparation.