Thiba Dam boosts rice yields for Mwea farmers
Mwea Rice Farmers have recorded increased yields since the completion of Thiba Dam over a year ago.
The scheme is currently producing an annual estimate of 114,000 metric tonnes for the last three-years.
Mwea Irrigation Settlement Scheme (MIS) is located in Kirinyaga County and falls within two sub-counties, Mwea East and Mwea West sub-counties.
The development of the scheme started in 1954 from the Tebere section with about 65 acres of irrigation farming and has since grown to the current gazetted area of 30,050 acres.
The scheme manager, Innocent Ariemba, said the expansion of the scheme is due to support from the national government and development partners.
The Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) is a major partner that has constructed the Nyamidi Water Intake, the Mwea Irrigation Agricultural Development (MIAD) Research Centre, and the Thiba Dam.
The completion of Thiba Dam, which has ensured a steady supply of water, has almost doubled production to about 220,000 metric tonnes.
The dam, which is 40 metres deep and one kilometre long, helps stabilise water supplies in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme and has allowed farmers to double rice crop production.
However, in the first year of completion, the country experienced severe drought, and the dam did not collect enough water to fill its capacity.
After long rains, the dam was filled to the brim, releasing water into the Thiba River via spillway.
This year, all farmers will do double cropping, relying on water storage in the dam in case of low rains.
The scheme accounts for 80 per cent of rice production in the country. There have been two rice-growing seasons, but since the completion of the dam, there have been three seasons, whereby the main season starts in July and ends in December. The second starts in October and ends in February, while the third starts in February and ends in July.
The additional expansion of irrigated area is now at 5000 acres, relying on improvised water canals and waterways. Upon full completion of all modern canals, the new area will be 10,000 acres. The scheme has a total length of 10,000km of canals and 500km of access roads, which, according to Ariemba, will require much attention due to double cropping.
He added that there have been plans to upgrade all access roads in all weather.
“The total expansion will be 10,000 acres once the new canals are completed; as of now, using improvised waterways, we have added almost 5,000 acres,” Ariemba said.
The scheme manager says different varieties grow differently and require different agronomy practices.
Farmers are not restricted to certain varieties but are coordinated based on research and water patterns.
The main three varieties are basmati, which takes 120 days to mature, kwamboka, 115 and hybrid 130.
Basmati premium, commonly called pishori, is common in markets, but farmers are encouraged to adopt high-yielding varieties.
Ariemba highlighted some of the benefits and achievements of the scheme to locals and the nation.
With 17,000 farmers/households registered in the scheme, the average population directly benefiting from it is over 80,000 individuals, given that the majority of households are made up of five people.
“We have over 17,000 registered farmers in the entire scheme, and with every farmer having an average of five people, the scheme is serving over 80000 individuals,” he said.
The business at Ngurubani/Mwea town has expanded from industrialization by private millers to accommodate trading activities.