KAKAMEGA, Kenya, (Xinhua) --
For about four decades, sugarcane farming has
been a source of income for John Masila.
He faithfully tilled
his sugarcane plantation for the years and the crop ensured him
food on the table.
But one morning some
two years ago, Masila picked up a machete and with the help of
some men he had hired slashed the large plantation.
“I was tired of
waiting for the payment. The crop was no longer serving me and I
had lost interest because of the delay and poor payments,”
Masila sums up his disappointment on sugarcane farming.
Musila, a farmer in
Busombuni village, Kakamega County recalls a time when sugarcane
farming was associated with opulence and success—a time when
farmers in Western region anticipated the boom that came after
sugarcane companies paid for their produce.
“I was supplying to
Mumias Sugar Company and they paid me well. Most farmers
depended on that money to feed their families and pay school
fees,” he told Xinhua on earlier this week.
Soon, signs that
things were not okay started springing up. First, there was
delay in collecting sugarcane, then payments would take too long
to mature, and sometimes the company would pay in installments,
with a promise that it would top up when things stabilized.
But they never did.
“We kept hoping everything would be fine, but it just got worse.
Life was unbearable and I had to look for an alternative to
ensure my children are in school,” he told Xinhua.
After he slashed the
sugarcane, he started pondering what to do with his farm.” Three
days after the sugarcane was down, I looked round my farm and
something struck my mind-try rice,” recalls Masila on the
journey to rice growing.
At first he thought
the option is impossible until he took a stroll around the
neighboring village when he realized the viability of what he
terms as “magical” rice.
With the help of an
extension officer, he tried his hand to the new crop. Masila
says he got the first seeds from someone who had grown Nerica
rice before and immediately sowed it on his farm.
His first harvest on
the two acres was not a lot, but says he was excited at the
possibility the new crop brought.
The 60 year old is
among dozens of farmers who abandoned sugarcane to venture into
“Since I started to
venture into rice, it is easy to harvest, it has a ready market
and returns are good,” says Masila.
Marion Gathumbi, in
charge of rice promotion programme at the Ministry of
Agriculture, says there is hope for farmers who want to grow
“In one hectare
farm, a farmer can harvest two to four tonnes of the rice upon
harvesting,” says Gathumbi.
She adds that nerica
rice is phenomenal, because it grows just like maize, and
farmers in all areas of the country can take it up and grow it.
“Nerica seeds are
available at the Kenya Seed Company for farmers who are
interested in it,” says Gathumbi.
Masila is among many
of the farmers in western Kenya who are growing it. He says even
though sugarcane farming did not work, his heart was still in
farming and is willing to try anything that provides a good
“Farming can give
you money, but you have to be dedicated to it and be flexible to
overcome uncertainties that come with it,” he says.
He adds that when
sugarcane farming did not work out, most farmers got discouraged
and some abandoned farming altogether.
new to grow gives hope,” he says while supervising the weeding
on his rice plantation. Masila is yet to master the dynamics of
growing the crop for maximum yield.
Even though he has
it in his farm, he learns something new every day. He talks of
days when he wakes up and realizes that leaves look different,
and he has to consult county agricultural officers to find a
“Rice is becoming
quickly a reliable cash crop in the region because it matures
faster and paying well than sugarcane and we are appealing to
both the county and national governments to give a hand in the
construction of a processing factory,” urged Wanyama.