From Strangler to Nourisher: How Novice Rice Farmers Turned Challenges into Opportunities
Research and development work on rice in Kenya prior to 1999 was mandated to the National Irrigation Board (NIB), the government agency in charge of irrigation schemes in the country. NIB provided services at a cost charged on the farmers’ produce at the end of the season. These services included land preparation, supply of production inputs, infrastructure maintenance, water abstraction regulation, and research and extension services (Nguyo et al, 2002). During 2000, NIB’s authority was challenged a�er a farmers’ protest demonstration at the Mwea Rice Irrigation Scheme (MRIS) of Kenya, which led to loss of lives and property (Kabutha and Mutero, 2001; Nguyo et al, 2002). Consequently, NIB stopped providing services to the scheme’s farmers, who took over control of their rice cultivation. This also led to the emergence of ‘out-of-scheme’ rice cultivation by novice farmers in stream and river valley bo�oms formerly infested with reeds and papyrus vegetation, which was illegal according to NIB bylaws (GoK, 1967; Wangui, 2000). Growing rice in this niche marked the beginning of the jua kali, or ‘informal’ rice system.