Mechanisation of rice farming in Kenya – Mwea Irrigation scheme

While still celebrating the December holidays, I visited some smallholder rice farmers in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme. My take-home was that rice farmers deserve a break from drudgery. The mechanization of rice farming in Kenya should be an urgent priority.

Farmers in the  Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kirinyaga County are finalizing the harvest of paddy rice this December. I had an opportunity to visit a family friend who is a rice farmer on a three-acre piece of land. Let me tell you if have never heard this, rice farming is really hard work. Without mechanization, rice is probably one of the most drudgerous crops to grow on earth.

Farmers spend many hours on the farm but very little work is done and they go home while extremely exhausted.

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I witnessed the manual harvesting of rice. To me, it looked like a punishment that farmers have to go through to bring rice to our tables. They chop the rice stalks using a sickle, which they then transport to a clean surface for threshing. They then beat-up the straws using sticks to separate the grains. Cleaning is done by winnowing. Some farmers harvest up to five hectares manually. Imagine that!

As if the donkey-work was not enough, manual harvesting of rice also leads to a lot of grain loss due to poor threshing.

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If the amount of hard work were a pricing factor, then rice would be the most expensive food on earth.

But the good news that farmers can now have access to affordable rice harvesting machines like the Massey Ferguson MF 6812 rice combine. Apart from being affordable, MF 6812 will give farmers a break from the toil and also improve efficiency by reducing grain loss. If farmers can work together, it could easy to design a mechanization strategy.

Farming rice without mechanization is the peak of farm drudgery. Rice farmers deserve a break from drudgery. Mechanization of rice farming in Kenya.

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Harvesting is a collection of activities. Traditionally, every activity of harvesting was done separately using a different hand tool. In the case of rice, for instance, harvesting consists of cutting using a sickle, threshing using rods, cleaning by winnowing, packaging in sacks, and transporting to the store using the human back.

A combine harvester came to put together all these activities into one machine operated by one person. You no longer need a dozen of tools and people to harvest. One machine and one person are enough.

Written by Joseph Wambugu

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