By Gilbert Ochieng.
For the past fifty years since the first rice crop was planted and harvested in 1969, the rice farmers at Bunyala rice scheme have been incurring huge losses amounting to millions of shillings as a result of the old fashioned manual harvesting method that had culminated into the spillage of rice during the threshing and winnowing stages.
After the first rice crop was harvested, rice farmers resolved to form Magombe Multi Purpose Cooperative Society Ltd ooperative society in 1975 with a membership of only eighty four.
The major reason for coming up with the cooperative society was to empower rice farmers by providing them with loan that would enable them to purchase basic necessities such as farm inputs, water and seeds among others.
In an exclusive interview with Sacco Review a few days ago, Magombe Multi Purpose Cooperative society chairman Christopher Gunyi said the membership has since then shot up from 84 to 272 with a total of 1934 farmers who are bonafide members of the Sacco
“Magombe Multi-Purpose Cooperatives society was formed forty five years down the lime with a membership of only eighty four but the number has presently risen to 272 since then. This is a remarkable improvement”, said the cooperative society chairman.”
He further said rice farmers owe their outstanding achievement to Magombe Multi-Purpose Cooperative society that has since its formation over four decades ago been providing them with loan facilities to empower them to meet the cost of rice farming.
“After forming Magombe Multi Purpose Cooperative Society, rice farmers realized outstanding achievements because they could now access loan facilities that had enabled them to meet the cost of rice farming,” said the cooperative society chairman.
OLD HARVESTING SYSTEM (Manual)
The cooperative society chairman further pointed out that rice farmers from Bunyala Irrigation scheme have been losing ten bags of rice per acre valued at sh50,000 each Harvesting season as a result of the manual Harvesting System that they have been using for five decades now.
“The manual harvesting system rice farmers from Bunyala Irrigation scheme have been using for the past fifty years has seen them incurring huge crop losses due to the spillage of rice totaling to the tune of ten bags of rice amounting to sh50,000 per acre,” he said.
Gunyi said the loss rice farmers have incurred as a result of manual harvesting system has forced cooperative society to liaise with various stakeholders who have provided the rice farmers with two combine Harvesters privately ownedby rice farmers from Mwea Irrigation scheme.
“We also have an Indian investor based in Nairobi who has provided the cooperative society ther with another combine harvester bringing the total to three,”he confided to the Sacco Review.
“But over500 acres of the rice farms have been harvested using combine havesters and this has seen rice farmers harvesting between 25 to 45 bags of rice per acre unlike before when they used to harvest only twelve bags of rice per acre,”he added.
Godfrey Wanjala, one of the rice farmers from Bunyala rice irrigation scheme and a member of Magombe Multi-Purpose cooperative society on his part is all smiles saying that the arrival of combine Harvesters is a blessing to the rice farmers who had for all those years been relying on the manual system of harvesting he asserted to loss of rice crop through spillage and winnowing.
“I have been growing and harvesting rice for so many years using the manual system of harvesting.This method is wasteful a result of spillage, but since I started using combine harvester to harvest my rice,I have gained a lot,” said the farmer.
Wanjala says apart from the crop loss through spillage during threshing and winnowing stages, birds especially the quelea species cause much damage to the rice crop at the harvesting stage.
The proud owner of a two acre parcel of land under rice says that with the modern method of harvesting he has managed to harvest a total of 45bags of rice per acre unlike before when he used to harvest only 25 bags of rice per acre.
Margaret, a long time rice farmer at Bunyala rice irrigation scheme has also not been excluded from the gains so far realized.
She says before the acquisition of the combine harvesters for them, she had been reaping a paltry twelve bags of rice per acre but with the arrival of the combine harvesters she is now harvesting at least twenty bags of rice from her one acre parcel of land.
“Initially I used to harvest only twelve bags of rice from.my one acre rice farm but today I am able to harvest not less than twenty bags of rice from my one acre farm,”she says.
Everline Magero, a prominent rice farmer from Ruambwa/Mudembi rice irrigation scheme on her part says rice farming has, apart from providing for her livelihood, enabled empowered her to educate her children thanks to Magombe Multi Purpose Cooperative Society Ltd she attributed her success to.
“Since I ventured into rice farming and became a member of Magombe Multi Purpose Cooperative Society Ltd five years ago, my life has changed a great deal,” she said.
However, despite registering great achievement members of Magombe Multi Purpose Cooperative Society Ltd have been forced to take their rice all the way to Kisumu where the same has to wait for a long time to be milled as there are also other rice farmers from Ahero irrigation scheme who are waiting for their turn to have their rice milled.
“Our rice farmers have achieved s lot through Magombe Multi Purpose Cooperative Society Ltd, but the key challenge is lack of a milliing plant that has forced them to transport their rice all the way to Kisumu for milling,”;said Gunyi.
The total acreage under rice is 2500 but plans have already been put in place by both the National Irrigation Board and Magombe Multi-Purpose Cooperative society membership to increase the acreage to 3500 acres,’ concludes cooperative society chairman.