Institute for Sustainable Commodities (ISCOM)

Bunyala rice irrigation scheme (Kenya) - a case study of the munaka outgrowers community based organisation

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Institute for Sustainable Commodities (ISCOM)


Kenya's irrigation potential stands at 539 OOOha of which only 105 OOOha (19%) has been| developed and annual growth a lowly 0.5% per annum. This situation justifies increased investment in irrigation development to ensure accelerated growth and sustainable development. Among the constraints cited as limiting irrigation development in Kenya are; low prioritization due to wrong perception, lack of a national policy, legal and institutional framework to guide development and management of the sector, inadequate public and private sector investment, inadequate development of infrastructure, weak water users associations and inadequate support services. These constraints led to the collapse of many irrigation schemes in 1999.

Bunyala irrigation scheme in western Kenya was launched in 1968 and became operational a year later. It is one of six irrigation schemes spread across the country, the others being Mwea, Ahero, Perkera, Galole and Bura. The scheme specializes in rice production drawing water from river Nzoia, it is located at the ol|d stage of the river on the shores of lake Victoria.

Bunyala irrigation scheme is composed of two categories namely the public and the smallholder community irrigation schemes. The public (nuclear) are owned by the government which then gives tenancy rights of four acres to each farmer. The NIB is mandated to run the public scheme mainly in providing the infrastructure and maintaining them and is the one that carries out irrigation. The smallholder community irrigation scheme (outgrowers) is owned by farmers through their associations and are developed on a cost sharing basis between the farmers, government and other development partners.

Budalangi division in which the Bunyala scheme is largely located has available agricultural land of 112km' but this has been on the decline over the years (Figure 1). Bunyala irrigation scheme is situated in two locations, these are Bunyala central in Busia district and Usonga in Siaya. These areas are characterized by high levels of poverty with Bunyala central having an index of 63% in 1999 (District statistics office). The current poverty indices in Western and Nyanza Provinces where the scheme is located are 61 and 65% respectively compared to 31 and 44% for central and Nairobi in that order (Government statistics, 2007).

Many rural areas in Kenya are characterized by abject poverty, but they tend to have local resources that can be used to alleviate the situation when the limiting factors are identified and properly applied. Bunyala is traditionally a fishing area as it located on the shores of Lake Victoria. However, increasing population and competition from neighbouring communities has greatly depleted the fish forcing the locals to find alternative means of livelihoods. This is because the larger part of the lake belongs to neighbouring Uganda.

Bunyala has the potential of producing flooded rice which is popular because of its higher grain yields than upland rice. However, it is an expensive undertaking that is beyond the reach of resource poor smallholder farmers. Although the government helps by excavating main canals, the remaining operations are still too expensive for the farmers and hence the need for further external assistance without which they engage in time consuming and ineffective manual activities leading to missing out on ideal growing periods and subsequent loss of yields. The overall aim of this study is to develop a poverty reduction programme for rice growers in Bunyala Irrigation Scheme. Specific objectives are:

  1. To determine the strengths and weaknesses of out grower paddy farmers in Bunyala Irrigation Scheme
  2. To convert individual rice farms into sustainable profit making enterprises through technical and material assistance

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