Mechanization and Technology

A farmers’ cooperative in Kenya receives a modern seed dressing machine to boost Kenya’s rice production

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01 July 2023, Africa: In a transformative move to increase rice seed production and scale of  improved rice varieties in Kenya,  the Mwea Rice Growers Multipurpose Cooperative Society (MRGM), the largest farmers’ cooperative in East and Southern Africa (ESA), has received a modern seed dressing machine from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), marking a major milestone in enhancing rice seed operations in the country. The official handover took place on 12 June 2023 at MRGM’s Seed Processing Unit, Mwea. and was attended by senior government officials from Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries; and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the IRRI Africa scientists.

MRGM, boasting a membership of over 7,000 farmers, plays a pivotal role as a registered seed producer and merchant, ensuring the availability of improved rice varieties in Kenya while operating under a licensing agreement with KALRO. However, the cooperative has faced significant challenges in manual seed treatment limiting its operation and scale. Recognizing the pressing need to increase rice production, IRRI donated a modern seed dresser that has an impressive seed processing capacity of 3-5 tons of rice seed per hour, revolutionizing the efficiency of seed dressing operation. Previously, the laborious manual drum seed dressing operation required 24 hours and a team of nine (9) persons to process the same quantity of seeds.

The timely donation of a modern seed dresser by IRRI reflects IRRI’s commitment to address some of the pressing needs to minimize the rising rice imports in ESA, which have exerted a heavy burden on local economies. With rice self-sufficiency rates plummeting in a number of African countries, including Kenya, the availability of quality seed of the improved climate-smart varieties is vital to check and correct this trend. IRRI, at the forefront of developing market-demanded and climate-resilient rice varieties, has released nearly forty varieties in the region over the past decade. The modern seed dressing machine donated to MRGM will not only boost quality seed production but also support IRRI’s and the Kenya government’s mission to boost the overall rice sector in Kenya.

Furthermore, IRRI’s efforts in the region aim to drive the widespread adoption of climate-resilient, high-yielding rice varieties. In countries where farmers continue to rely on old varieties—in some cases, varieties released more than four decades ago, the combination of these new varieties and the use of quality seed is expected to significantly contribute to regional food and income security. During the handover event, Dr. Rosemary Murori, IRRI Country Representative for Kenya and Tanzania, emphasized the importance of enhancing MRGM’s capacity for quality seed production. “Enhancing the capacity of MRGM in quality seed production would greatly contribute to access of seeds of improved rice varieties such as Komboka and will contribute to increasing rice yields and decrease rice imports in Kenya, as envisioned in the National Rice Development Strategy. This is also part of the government’s efforts under the Bottom up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) 2022-2027”, said Dr. Murori.

Dr. Mary Mutembei, Head of the Rice Promotion Programme (RiPP) at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, expressed her gratitude to IRRI for its unwavering support in strengthening the rice sector in Kenya and bolstering the seed systems. “The government has embarked on an expansion programme to increase the area under rice cultivation in Kenya, and this is expected to increase the demand for rice seed to about 7,500 MT by the year 2030. Hence, the modern seed dressing machine will significantly boost the capacity of MRGM to produce quality seed and contribute to meeting the demand of rice seed in the country. With enhanced efficiency, quality rice seed will be made available to farmers on time and at an affordable price,” she added.

MRGM CEO Mr. Muriuki, expressed gratitude for the seed dresser IRRI provided. He emphasized the transformative impact the seed dressing unit will have on rice seed processing operations at the cooperative. Mr. Muriuki highlighted that this generous contribution will strengthen  MRGM’s position as a leader in the timely provision of quality seed to farmers in the country. Moreover, he believes that the success of MRGM can serve as a model for emulation by other farmers’ cooperatives in East and Southern Africa.

This donation of the modern seed dresser is part of IRRI’s larger effort to support local partners in the region, including the NARES, non-governmental organizations, farmers’ cooperatives, and women’s groups. This initiative aligns with the objectives of the ongoing project Accelerated Genetic Gain in Rice (AGGRi) Alliance, which began in 2019 and aims to unify and modernize rice breeding and seed systems efforts in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Additionally, the efforts of strengthening rice seed systems in ESA are complemented by the OneCGIAR Seed Equal initiative, further reinforcing the commitment to ensuring the availability of quality seeds of new rice varieties to the smallholder farmers in ESA at the right time.

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