By George Munene
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has launched a new rice variety, Komboka, that promises farmers to double the yields of presently available cultivars. It is drought-resistant, needing less water to grow which makes it possible to be grown in untraditional rain-fed lowland regions.
The new rice variety developed in conjunction with the International Rice Research institute yields 6.5 to 7 tons per ha compared to regularly grown Basmati rice which stands at just 2.5 to 3 tons per hectare. A farmer can harvest up to 40 bags of 100kgs per acre compared to Basmati which will yields 20 to 25 bags —this will enable farmers to earn more per acre than they ever have
“This variety can be grown in Western, Eastern and even the Coastal regions as it has some relatively high drought resistance and if there is no water it can still do well,” Dr. Rosemary Murori, an IRRI rice breeder noted.
Komboko also has been engineered to have attributes that are preferred by the Kenyan consumer: it is semi-aromatic with long slender grains and has a soft cooking texture.
It also takes just four months (110-120 days) to mature compared to Basmati which grows in 140 days. The plant height upon maturity is 110-115cm, it is sturdy and does not lodge; plant stems weaken and cannot support rice grain weight causing them to fall over—a common occurrence as farmers push for maximum grain yield from their paddies. This leads to significant yield losses as well as increasing harvest costs and time.
The rice variety is best suited for all of Kenya’s main rice-growing regions; Mwea, Ahero, West Kano, Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale, Bura, Hola, Bunyala, Lower Kuja, Busia, Alupe.
Kenya currently imports about Sh23 billion worth of rice per year, this bill the government hopes will go down with the production of Kamboka in good quantities. At its launch in Mwea, Kirinyaga, KALRO Director-General Dr. Eliud Kireger pointed out that the country has been well short of meeting the annual demanded consumption of 600,000 tonnes per year, operating at an average of 200,000 tonnes. “The rice varieties farmers have been planting have never gone beyond 2.5 to 3 tonnes per hectare, the new Komboka variety can now double production to up to seven tonnes per hectare compared to what is currently being produced,” he noted.
KALRO will be partnering with Mwea Rice Cooperative Sacco who are licensed seed producers, giving them basic bred seeds to multiply and produce seeds that will be availed to the farmers. 24 acres of Kamboka seed is currently available in Mwea with the government seeking to promote awareness of its potential benefits as its uptake by farmers has thus far been low.