A TRANS-COUNTY SCHEME FEEDING RESIDENTS
Bunyala Irrigation Scheme cuts across and serve two sub-counties of Bunyala and Alego Usonga in Busia and Siaya respectively. The scheme is rich in terms of value addition. It is offering a full farming cycle from ensuring farmers use certified seeds, maintain their crops, use the right chemicals well, use mechanised farming, store produce well and do marketing, including milling and branding. The scheme is also investing a lot in floods mitigation.
It has ventured into making sure farmers crop certified seeds for maximum production, hence supplies them with certified rice seed. Before, farmers used to travel all the way to Ahero in Kisumu County and worse to Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kirinyaga County to access the certified seeds.
This would tempt them to use uncertified seed that compromises production and the quality of the produce. “We keep the seed for the farmers and treat it at time of need because you cannot keep the seed beyond three weeks since it loses the nutrients during the treatment, ‘the longer it stays, the more the nutrients are lost”. Currently we have 748 bags of Komboka seed rice and 565 bags of IR 2793 variety.
In its uniqueness, at any given time, there is a crop in the fields in different stages. The irrigation potential in the area is about 20,000 acres with more than 20,000 direct beneficiaries spread over Busia and Siaya counties. As explained by Eng. Edwin Manyonge, the Bunyala Irrigation Scheme manger, “in increasing cropping intensity and diversification, we are keen on ensuring two crops per season to increase rice production and in increasing yield per unit area.”
While at it, the scheme holds capacity-building forums during field days. Among the areas of interest is how to farm, maintaining the crops, chemical application, harvest, storing and marketing produce. The scheme is also training farmers in collaboration with Busia County government in rice crop management, said Eng. Manyonge.
The Scheme, informed by the 2020 floods, bottled up with 2011 floods, built a 36,000-bag store. “Farmers lost their paddy in their sight, hence the need to construct a store with a capacity of 36,000 bags,” said Eng. Manyonge. The store was officially commissioned by Hon. Eng. Joshua Toro, REng, MIEK, chairman of the Board of Directors, on Saturday March 27, 2021. “It is built in a manner that is able to withstand the last highest flood levels of 400mm. A dyke has been constructed around the store to mitigate floods. Farmers are very happy with the store,” Eng. Manyonge further said. As Christopher Pele testifies, the store came in at the right time and is grateful to the Government through the National irrigation Authority. Farmers lost a harvest of about 3,000 bags and hit the markets too.
Deliberate efforts have been put to secure the farmers from rice brokers, Eng Manyonge said. “The Scheme has come in immensely in linking farmers to markets and for the first time, the farmers have not fallen into the Ugandan’s brokers. Unlike before when the market was from Uganda, this year, the market has been good. We are in good hands”, said Ochieng’ a farmer at the Scheme.
“We have been marketing the Scheme and for the last one year we have seen private players coming in. We have had the County Government of Siaya and the Ministry of Agriculture show interest. The Ministry gave us two mills for cooperatives to add value to their rice. Construction has commenced. Once completed, farmers will not go all the way to Kisumu to mill and they will no longer opt to sell their rice as paddy for other players in the value chain to do other processes.” The business opportunities for the private player is huge in the scheme.
The Scheme is planning to brand its rice to access the market as Bunyala Irrigation Scheme. Eng. Manyonge says the scheme is eyeing giving “an identity to rice produced here. Currently we supply a lot of rice but you will not find it in the supermarket shelves as such. We are fast-tracking the process, based on how fast the mill will be finalised, projecting by June 2023.”
Bunyala Irrigation Scheme was started in 1959 with an initial acreage of 534 acres under rice production. The acreage has since expanded to more than 3,000 acres, benefitting more than 2,500 farming households. Its average yield is 2,500 kg per acre.
The above interventions have increased food security. In the financial year 2021/2022, the rice yield increased to more than 10,000 tonnes, up from 7,000 tonnes the previous year. The scheme is focused on increasing rice production to improve livelihood of farmers through efficient and effective irrigation system and management.