FoodTrade ESA grantee Afritec Seeds Ltd. is implementing a project that is taking hybrid rice technology from the research farms of Hybrids East Africa Ltd. and putting it into the hands of small farmers around Eastern Africa. Kenyan-based Afritec is working to improve access to pure, high quality clean seeds that will help farmers transition from traditional varietals to hybrid types. The company pioneered rice hybrids developed in sub-Saharan Africa specifically to meet the needs of African farmers.
Afritec recently conducted a series of rice seed field demonstrations in Mwea, Kenya. The demonstrations were held in partnership with Athi River Mining, who market mavuno fertilisers, which are blended for specific crop and soil types. The events were used to showcase the optimum genetics and fertility of rice varieties, and compare them to local farmer practice. Mwea produces nearly 80% of Kenya’s annual rice requirements. However, the country still struggles to meet growing demand and has to import the produce to supplement stocks available locally.
The field trials took place in November, and Afritec compared three types of aromatic rice hybrids to the locally-grown pishori. The results revealed that in high altitude areas, the aromatic hybrid varieties showed substantial advantage, generating a 4T/Ha advantage over pishori, revealing potential for higher incomes for farmers. In addition, the hybrid seeds matured earlier, did not lodge, were tolerant to extreme conditions and had noticeable resistance to pests and disease.
Florence Warui, a farmer in the region participated in the events. “The benefits of planting the hybrid rice seeds are substantial and offer a sustainable way for us to have a better future. Having witnessed the demonstrations, I am confident that I can have the same results on my farm and experience greater yields and higher economic returns. I am looking forward to starting this new journey.”
After the series of events, approximately 592 farmers in Mwea registered their interest to purchase the hybrid seeds for the next planting season. Follow-up field trials are planned for Kisumu County.
A local farmer, Bedan Muya, went on to say “It is important for us to adapt with the times. What worked for our forefathers may not yield the same results today. I welcome the opportunity for change, particularly when that change is for the better. The demo trials taught us ways in which we can upgrade to planting hybrid rice and farm successfully.”