The current drought in Kenya would cut rice production by half putting more pressure on the already worsening food crisis in the country. Mwea irrigation scheme, which accounts for 80 percent of Kenya’s rice production, has now dried up. The National Irrigation Board (NIB) acting general manager Mugambi Gitonga said yields will drop from an annual production of 150,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes. The decline will affect growers who normally produce rice worth Sh7 billion every year. Mr Gitonga said rivers Thiba and Nyamindi, which supply the scheme with water, have registered a significant decline in volumes. He said River Thiba, whose flow in a normal season is six cubic meters per second, is now flowing at about two cubic meters per second while Nyamindi’s flow is at one cubic meter per second. Mwea scheme requires a total flow of seven cubic meters for effective production. “This year we are going to register a decline in production of rice because of the severe weather condition that has affected the flow of water from the two rivers that supply Mwea scheme,” said Mr Gitonga.
Kenya’s rice consumption has been growing every year by 10 percent and now it stands at 400,000 tonnes annually. The country produces 150,000 tonnes in a year while the deficit of 250,000 is imported from world’s major producers. The shortage has seen the price of rice go up with kilograms that is sourced directly from the factory now costing $ 1.25 from $ 0.87 last year. NIB plans to build a $ 150 million Thiba Dam in Mwea. Mr Gitonga said the reservoir will play a key role in addressing the current challenges. Apart from ensuring the continuous floor of water throughout, the new dam will also see farmers diversify from growing rice, the only major cash crop in the region, to other produce such as horticulture. The project will generate enough water for farming and expand the existing Mwea irrigation scheme’s acreage to 6,600 acres.
The project will establish a reservoir to hold 15.6 million cubic meters of water for the expanded irrigation project, which will see farmer’s plant crops twice per year. About 95 per cent of the land earmarked for the dam has been cleared to pave the way for the dam following government compensation of owners. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will provide $100 million for the project with the government putting in the balance of $ 60 million. NIB has been expanding irrigation schemes to help small-scale farmers reduce over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture and boost the country’s food production. According to the Economic Survey 2016, Kenya’s expenditure on irrigation development grew from $ 7.37 million in 2012 to & $120 million last year, underscoring the importance the government has attached to the sector.