Introduction of the System of Rice Intensification in Kenya: experiences from Mwea Irrigation Scheme


There are various avenues for intensifying agricultural production, the most common being increased use of fertilizers, supplemental irrigation of crops, and adoption of high-yielding varieties. These options are rather widely known to farmers around the world, but they have not been widely adopted by smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa. The low adoption rate is related to complex technical and socio-economic issues, such as poor extension services, lack of capital, failure to mobilize the requisite water, or simply, poverty. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is in a special category of innovation in that, farmers stand to gain multiple benefits from its use, including the possibility of increasing rice yields substantially, saving water, and getting better grain quality, using differently the assets that they already have. A major impediment for the adoption of SRI in Africa has been lack of knowledge about this intervention, especially for farmers already practicing irrigated agriculture. Farmers generally have good business sense and will adopt technologies or practices once the benefits are proven and the risks are seen as minor. SRI should be attractive for these reasons, but there are various issues to be resolved before large numbers of farmers can adopt the method. This article reports on the steps taken and the technical and socio-economic issues addressed in efforts to introduce SRI and promote it in Kenya, specifically in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme. A diverse set of individuals and institutions in Kenya together embarked on the evaluation and dissemination of SRI methods in this East African country beginning in July 2009. If the new methods can perform in Kenya as in other countries, this will bring much benefit to rice farmers and rice consumers in the region. SRI is coming to Kenya relatively late, as it was the thirty-ninth country from which favorable SRI results have been reported. This means that Kenyans can learn from others’ experience and evaluations, and there is also now more of a supportive institutional framework. The initial results from on-farm SRI trials have been positive, although not conclusive. They have given impetus to Kenyan farmers and institutions to collaborate within a multi-sectoral, multi-level coalition that has provided an informal, multi-faceted platform for the evaluation, adaptation and dissemination of SRI practices. The initiative in Kenya is now gaining more formal status and more resources. This experience is presented to show the kinds of things that have been and can be done to utilize the SRI opportunity for raising land, labor, and water productivity in the rice sector.

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Correspondence to B. M. Mati.

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Mati, B.M., Wanjogu, R., Odongo, B. et al. Introduction of the System of Rice Intensification in Kenya: experiences from Mwea Irrigation Scheme. Paddy Water Environ 9, 145–154 (2011).

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  • Farmer participation
  • Irrigation management
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • On-farm trials
  • Profitability
  • Rice yields
  • System of Rice Intensification
  • Water saving