Rice technology – building capacity in Western Kenya

Rice farmers in Kisumu county, Kenya, receive training from 2SCALE-linked organizations.

Rice farmers in Kisumu county, Kenya, receive training from 2SCALE-linked organizations.

Rice production in Kisumu county, Kenya, is increasing rapidly, thanks in part to 2SCALE’s capacity building programs. The program is practical, hands-on, and tailored to different groups – mostly farmers, but also input retailers, extension agents, and even managers and accountants from farmer cooperatives.

The capacity building program is led by two private firms: Cool Trends, which specializes in farmer training and business support, and Nyabon Enterprises, which supplies farm inputs and equipment.

Three model farms have been established, allowing farmers to learn by doing. One model farm is managed by Nyabon, the other two by farmer groups. On each model farm, field days are held at critical crop stages such as nursery establishment, transplanting, and harvest. Nine field days were organized in the 2018 season, attracting more than 2500 visitors (1200 of whom were women). Field days were highly interactive, with farmers sharing ideas with each other, with project trainers and coaches, and with extension officers from the county government, the National Irrigation Board and the Lake Basin Development Company.

The field days also provided opportunities for partner companies to advertise (and provide training on) their products or services: Afritec on seeds, Bayer and Osho Chemicals on agrochemicals, Toyota Tsusho and Athi River Mining on fertilizers, and small local retailers on farming tools.

A series of training workshops focused on specific themes, for example nursery management, mechanization, fertilizer techniques and equipment, business planning, or registration procedures for cooperatives.

To supplement the training program, 2SCALE sponsored three groups of farmers to visit rice clusters in areas where production and marketing methods are relatively advanced. This enabled farmers not only to quickly adopt new techniques but also to establish contact with buyers involved in the huge cross-border rice trade. Following these visits, trial deliveries were made to Uganda in October, with bulk orders expected after the February 2019 harvest.

Nyabon Enterprises makes various technologies available for rental by farmers.

Nyabon Enterprises makes various technologies available for rental by farmers.

Videos proved to be a particularly effective training tool. Short videos on production techniques were followed by discussions, guided by trained facilitators, that dug deeper into technical aspects as well as costs and logistics. Eight video shows were organized in July, attracting more than 1100 farmers (360 of whom were women). Why July? Because of the football World Cup; training videos were screened at popular venues, just before big games!

These programs have contributed to a massive increase in rice production. 2SCALE farmers have increased yields by 30%. They are getting better prices because they have larger volumes, better quality, and sell collectively. This season, farmers from neighboring communities are planting rice for the first time. Annex plots – farmers’ fields next to model farms, where they replicate the technologies demonstrated – have increased by 160%.

Several new retail shops have opened in the Ahero area, selling seeds, fertilizers and other farm inputs. Partner firm Toyota Tsusho has developed (with 2SCALE assistance) a new fertilizer blend for rice, with added micronutrients such as zinc and boron. Nyabon offers pelleting services; farmers buy urea which is compacted into pellets, increasing fertilizer-use efficiency by at least 30%

2SCALE farmers have increased yields by 30%.

2SCALE farmers have increased yields by 30%.

Rice farmer Benjamin Owuoth explains how things have changed. “We are not the same as before. Because of 2SCALE, we are learning to farm scientifically, not blindly following what we did in the past. Now we do not worry so much – we can pay school fees on time, we can buy medicine if our child is sick, we can save money. Maybe next year our group can even buy a small rice mill, to make rice for the supermarket.”

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