Rice shortage hits Migori millers as irrigation agency scales down – Business Daily

Bags of rice at a Multipurpose Cooperative Society store. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG
A move by the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) to reduce operations at the lower Kuja rice irrigation scheme has grounded operations of millers.
Already, rice millers are bearing the brunt of the unending stalemate between farmers and the scheme management with several acres of land lying fallow over compensation delays.
The two parties have been embroiled in legal battles for years since the implementation of the first phase of the irrigation project in Nyatike.
Locals accuse politicians from the region of orchestrating the current stalemate at the expense of the residents who have immensely benefited from the project.
“It is hurting that some of our politicians are orchestrating the withdrawal of funds for the project to make political comebacks in 2022,” Edwin Ochieng, a resident of Sagama village said.
NIA regional coordinator Joel Tanui, during a recent crisis meeting, said unwillingness by the farmers to cooperate has negatively impacted the scheme’s improvement.
“NIA was only tasked with providing an infrastructural framework as part of the production, leaving farmers to take care of the remaining expenses. Locals are at liberty to choose between development and legal wrangles,” he said.
Millers who had invested in the region as rice production in Nyatike boomed, are now at the centre of the conflict, with some fearing they might be forced to shut down their operations if the crisis is not solved any time soon.
Tom Omondi, a manager at Nyakweri rice mill, said they have stock to last them two weeks, after which they are likely to fold up.
“Farmers who used to supply our mill with paddy rice have since gone down after operations at the rice farms were scaled down by the irrigation authorities citing high operation costs,” he said.
The miller added that at times he’s forced to source paddy rice from as far as Ahero in Kisumu county since the diminishing supplies cannot meet their milling demands of five tonnes per day.
The entire irrigation project was to cover 19,000 hectares of land and not even a quarter of the project has been implemented due to unsettled court cases regarding compensation.
Currently, there are over 20 court cases seeking to have the residents compensated, with sources noting that NIA had considered pulling out from supporting the project which has cushioned the semi-arid area from pangs of drought.
A November 13, 2020 investigation report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights revealed that the project had adverse and far-reaching environmental and social effects on locals.
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By Kwetu Buzz

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