Background to SRI adoption in Kenya
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), is a proven technology for growing rice in paddies, which incredibly increases yields while using less water among other benefits. Furthermore, SRI is a green technology which holds promise for food security, water savings, health and environmental benefits and improved productivity of rice. SRI was introduced in Kenya at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme in 2009, through research and capacity building of various cadres of stakeholders, awareness creation and policy advocacy to ensure that SRI was well known and accepted by rice sector actors. In 2011, SRI was introduced to rice-growing farmers in western Kenya. The System was further promoted through on-site demonstrations, exchange visits, outreach activities and publicity. Driven by positive results in terms of higher rice yields, water savings, better grain quality, health benefits of working in SRI paddies and farmer experiences, adoption of SRI steadily rose. In 2016, SRI was further promoted in Ahero, West Kano and South West Kano Irrigation Schemes, through training and some incentives, mostly inputs and push weeders. By this time, it was estimated that some 5,000 farmers had adopted SRI in Kenya.However, since 2016, the promotion of SRI in Kenya dwindled mostly due to lack of funds for any tangible activities. It was thus unclear whether the adoption of SRI had retained its momentum or not, or how many adopters there were, or whether they implemented the correct suite of SRI practices. By 2022, there were new and old farmers who were not aware of SRI and the early adopters may have dropped some of its components. It was necessary therefore, to reach more farmers with SRI message and to re-kindle new training in a modern and more interactive way.
The Digital SRI Training Project
It is now well known that mobile phone penetration in Kenya is over 105% (because many people own more that one phone). Indeed, nearly all rice farmers in Kenya own and operate a mobile phone. At the same time, there is need to take SRI capacity building to the next level using modern technologies. It is for this reason a project focused on SRI was started in January 2022, covering Mwea, Ahero and West Kano irrigation schemes. It supports Digital Training on System of Rice Intensification on a specially developed digital platform, with some incentives in form of rotary weeders to farmer groups. It involves sending SMS messages to farmers that contain illustrated training content on SRI. The project is implemented by Resource Plan Ltd, a Consulting firm based in Kenya and Arifu (Akengo Kenya Company Limited), a social enterprise based in East Africa. The project is funded by The Perivoli Foundation, a charitable organization based in the United Kingdom. So far, the registration of farmers on the platform is on-going, while technical content developed by Resource Plan is being packaged for on the digital platform. The progress of the project will be shared widely. Watch this space.