New hybrid rice offer respite to Kenyans amid biting maize shortage  

NAIROBI, Aug 1 (Xinhua) — Kenyan farmers who usually rely on erratic rains to grow staples could soon find a respite to endemic food insecurity linked to erratic weather patterns thanks to introduction of new rice hybrid that require minimum water to grow.
The new rice hybrid developed by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) can be grown under normal rainfall conditions similar to other crops like maize, beans, millet, and wheat. During a recent interview with Xinhua, Dr. Kayode Sanni, Project Manager for Rice at AATF, said he hoped the new variety will go a long way in addressing food and nutrition insecurity in the country. “We believe this will help a great deal in addressing food shortages as the main problem is low productivity of crops and the hybrids are providing a solution. A farmer with the present variants harvests only up to three tons per hectare while with the new hybrids, the yield is about seven tons per hectare,” said Kayode.
Kenya currently imports more than 200,000 metric tons of rice each year and with the yield tripling, then we will experience a reduction in the price of rice making it an even more affordable option as a staple food,” he added. The rice hybrid is already being tested in the Coast, Western and Central regions with plans to expand the project to other parts of Kenya that can support the production of rice. In the pilot phase, Kayode says the names are not yet provided as presently the hybrids are labeled through the characteristics demonstrated. The bulk of rice production in Kenya is carried out through intensive irrigation and majorityof varieties are late maturing. The new hybrids could be grown in rain-fed conditions and they mature about a month earlier than the best variety being used currently. AATF has already trained personnel who will in turn train other farmers on growing the hybrid rice as the foundation plans to release the seeds by the end of this year but this is subject to approval by the Kenya plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). According to Kayode, climate tolerant crops are part of the solution to the endemic Africa’s food insecurity crisis. Rice is the second most consumed staple in Kenya after maize food after maize but its cultivation is limited to western, coastal and central parts of the country.