The Rice Farmers of Northeastern Kenya - New horizons

Published November 27, 2014 by Abshir Mohamed

Adan Hussein Keynan uses rice straws, after threshing, as livestock feed to reduce feed cost and increase livestock survival.

Meet Adan Hussein Keyna and Aretha Yunis. Not so long ago, the idea of rice production in Kenya’s arid and semiarid lands, dominated by pastoralist communities, would have raised more than a few eyebrows. Nestled in a small village some 90 kilometers from the closest town, a group of families - all livestock keepers - are challenging those perceptions.

“This is going to be our first harvest,” says Adan as we make our way to his lush and green two-acre farm, deep inside the tough terrains of the arid north. “For me as a pastoralist, I would say this is the perfect crop. Once I harvest the rice grain, everything that remains is used as livestock feed. That’s why even during a dry spell I am not worried about my goats and cattle,” adds Hussein.

A few meters from Hussein’s plot stands Aretha Yunis, a 40-year-old mother of six. She explains that whenever she cannot buy maize and sorghum flour, she grinds rice to make porridge for her infant child. With this harvest, her child will not go hungry again. A few years ago, Aretha had 250 cows and goats, but due to successive severe droughts only 35 remain. As a result Aretha’s family is no longer nomadic.

“I work on this two acre rice farm with my husband, and our hope is to repay loans that we have, get money forschool fees for my children, and food for our home. Without the weeds and grass I collect from this farm, my cows would have already died,” she adds.

Aretha expects 800 kilograms of rice from her two acres. Hussein and Aretha are just two of the 45 families that recently harvested rice from the 20 acre Jarajara rice farm located on a flood plain on the banks of the permanent river Tana.

The rice farmers of Jarajara have big dreams. “If this phase is successful, we are planning to seek support to start a 1,000-acre rice farm in the nearby town to produce high quality rice with our brand name – J.J rice,” says Adan.

The farmers are proud to be doing what nobody else is doing, and they hope they can meet the huge demand for rice among pastoralist communities in their area.

This project reflects our determination and commitment to building resilience amongst pastoralist communities, who for generations have depended on livestock as their main
source of livelihoods. In northern Kenya, we are working with over 90,000 families to decrease vulnerabilities, build resilience, and stimulate growth. Find out more.