24 February 2020, Kisumu, Kenya --- The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), and the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) recently organized a farmers’ field day in West Kano Irrigation Scheme to promote the newly-released Komboka rice variety.
“Most of the technologies developed by the researchers do not reach the target end-users in most cases. Thus, to promote adoption of technologies, including developed varieties, IRRI, KALRO, and NIA organized field demonstrations in all major rice-growing regions in Kenya,” said Joseph Ndung’u, IRRI Product Manager for Africa. “We identified farmers in Western Kenya and the Nyanza region to take part in the establishment of the Komboka field alongside the traditional varieties that they are growing for the field day,” he continued.
The field day entailed an evaluation of the Komboka variety in the farmers’ field, cooking and tasting of its milled rice, and milled rice and paddy exhibition of the variety. In addition to the evaluation, a questionnaire was introduced to the farmers to gather more information regarding their perception of the new variety and gender-disaggregated data on rice production.
Kisumu County Officer, Agriculture Dr. Paul Omanga emphasized the importance of field demos, “I encourage the use of demonstrations of new technologies and field days to pass knowledge that will enlighten farmers and enhance adoption.” The distribution of Komboka seeds in the schemes around the region is included in their efforts on increasing rice production to address food insecurity in the county. “The advancement of rice production in the scheme and the region at large led to increased rice production. This is attributed to improved seed systems and the adoption of new varieties. Rice production in the region has increased from 5 to 10 bags to about 30 bags per acre,” Dr. Omanga said.
Comparing Komboka to the commonly grown local variety IR 2793-80-1, all the farmers’ groups easily distinguished the two varieties apart and unanimously described Komboka to exhibit the following traits: higher number of tillers, uniform crop stand, even in maturity, aromatic, higher yields, easy to thresh, longer panicles, less affected by diseases (Blast and RYMV), appealing grain type, early-maturing, good plant height and no lodged hills.
In terms of organoleptic test, farmers present described Komboka rice as having good cooking quality, non-sticky, had good taste, and aromatic. From the millers’ perspective, the following are some notable traits of Komboka according to the Lake Basin Development Authority: high milling recovery rate, non-sticky when cooked, aromatic, and has medium-sized grain.
“We urge farmers to embrace and adopt the new Komboka rice variety. There is huge potential within the scheme with possible expansion areas still underutilized.” Chief Officer County Agriculture & Irrigation Denis Otieno highlighted.
In line with the efforts to increase food security in the county, KALRO is in advanced negotiation with the Ministry of Agriculture to supply them with Komboka seeds to be distributed to farmers, which is a big boost towards the promotion of the new variety. Due to the increasing demand for this new variety, KALRO has been producing 110 tons of Komboka seeds annually and as the demand increases, it intends to further scale up. IRRI, KALRO Kibos, and KALRO Mwea will partner to increase production of Komboka seeds in Western Kenya and Nyanza region with the help of other stakeholders in the seed chain including the private seed producing companies.
The Center Director of KALRO Mwea Dr. Ruth Musila acknowledged the cordial collaboration in research activities with IRRI that has led to the release of the Komboka variety, “Breeding takes a lot of time and resources, and a lot has gone into the development of Komboka making it suited for adoption. From a breeder’s perspective, it yields higher than the traditional varieties grown in the schemes. It has erect flag leaves that to some significant extent, deter birds. It has moderate resistance to the RYMV and blast that are so common in the Western schemes, high tillering ability and is early maturing (110-120 days) and easy to thresh. Its panicles are also well-exerted and it has a good crop stand with uniform crop. It is semi-aromatic and therefore can be produced both for commercial and for domestic consumption.” To exploit the full potential of this variety, farmers were urged to observe good agronomic practices.
Currently, the biggest challenge facing KALRO regarding the Komboka variety is the huge demand and it would wish to partner with other public and private seed merchants to serve this demand. Ms. Charlotte Oloo from the National Irrigation Authority-Ahero Research also called for more collaboration with fertilizer companies and promoters to determine the appropriate fertilizer considering the low soil fertility status in the region.
Over 200 farmers and stakeholders gathered for the field day with representations from the National Irrigation Authority (West Kano & Ahero), County of Kisumu leadership (County Officer Agriculture, County Chief Officer Crop, and Sub-County Officer of Crop Nyando), the Lake Basin Development Authority, Kenya National Trading Corporation, Yara Fertilizer, and Magos seed merchant.
Similar field days were organised by IRRI and KALRO together with Mwea Rice Growers Multi-purpose Cooperative Society in the Mwea region, one of the major rice-growing areas in Kenya, in December 2020 to promote Komboka rice variety to the smallholder farmers in Mwea and surrounding regions. IRRI and KALRO are also focusing on promoting Komboka in Burra region of Kenya.
For more information, you may contact:
Ajay Panchbhai, Seed Systems and Product Management Lead - Africa, IRRI
Rosemary Murori, Scientist II - Plant Breeding, IRRI