Between January and April, Western parts of Kenya have been experiencing drought.
The situation has been dire that crops which require a lot of water like rice have been suffering.
And in a bid to break the annual dry spell bondage, Bunyala Irrigation Scheme has become more innovative.
We know the trend, and we have to intensify production when there is still a lot of water, to cover for the demand during drOughtEdwin Manyonge
When Lake Region Bulletin visited the scheme, extensive work was ongoing, in what the scheme Manager Edwin Manyonge said was preparation for the January hiccup.
According to Manyonge, River Nzoia basin begins to dry in the months of January.
And to beat this, the scheme puts a lot of land on production between the months of August and December.
“We know the trend, and we have to intensify production when there is still a lot of water, to cover for the demand during drought,” said Manyonge.
“This makes the demand for water lower during the dry season, and the available water would be sufficient for the demand,” he added.
Reduced Turnaround period
Every crop turnaround season takes three months, and Manyonge says there have also been efforts to reduce this to two months.
“This means between harvesting and the next crop, we shorten to two months hence bring a lot of land under production,” said Manyonge.
Bunyala Irrigation Scheme is located along Busia and Siaya Counties.
With a production capacity of 3, 126 acres, the scheme utilizes 500 acres every production cycle (monthly), in a rotational manner.
As we speak, 1, 500 acres are under crops, either approaching harvesting, or in early stagesEdwin Manyonge
The scheme uses pumping method to supply water into the farms, hence stagger the production to manage water demand.
Mr Manyonge said the expansion of Lower Nzoia Scheme will push the scheme’s capacity to 10, 000 acres of land.
“As we speak, 1, 500 acres are under crops, either approaching harvesting, or in early stages,” he said.
The scheme is supported by three farmers’ cooperatives; Magombe Multipurpose and Bunyala Rice Farmers Cooperative in Busia, and Usonga Rice Farmers Cooperative Society in Siaya.
In a bid to have the farmers keep up with the new irrigation schedules, his office has been working with Busia and Siaya County Governments to facilitate the provision of subsidized fertilizer to farmers.
“We do supply the two county governments with a list of our bonafide farmers in the whole scheme and their requirements, in terms of volumes and the types of fertilizers required,” he said.
He added the office also liase with the National Produce and Cereals Board to provide storage for their rice.
With these innovative activities demanding quick, and prompt farming schedules, Manyonge said the scheme has employed maximum mechanization of farming, especially harvesting, to ensure maximum produce and bridge the labour gap.
We do supply the two county governments with a list of our bonafide farmers in the whole scheme and their requirements, in terms of volumes and the types of fertilizers requiredEdwin Manyonge
“We have put a lot of land being put under production. At any given time, there are sections planting, others weeding, others harvesting, and others preparing land,” he said.
“Al these activities are labour intensive, hence the labour requirements become high and the labour becoming low.”
He said this has led to farmers realize additional seven bags per acre compared to use of manual harvesting methods.
Majority of farmers also use herbicides for weeding, accounting to about 70 per cent of farmers.
Rice planters have also been introduced, with Mr Manyonge saying their limited supply have slowed their implementation.