Dominion farm country director Chris Abir at the Source of River Yala. (Photo: JAmes Keyi
Swampy pool that has become a regional rice producer
Dominion farm is one of the biggest agricultural activity in Siaya County and it is difficult to believe that the land it is sitting on was a few years back just a swamp. Located within Yala Swamp, which traverses both Bondo and Alego Usonga, the farm has opened the region.
The country director Mr Chris Abir says the mission of the company is to boost the production of rice, which covers some 2,000 acres of the land in addition to educating local people on proper land use and create viable employment for residents. So far 1,500 people are employed in the farm and the company has leased 17,050 acres of land to the local people to provide give them a source of income.
Abir says they have been selling rice and other cereals and tilapia fish to the Kenyan market as well as the surrounding regions. Fish is sold at Sh260 per kilogramme. He says that they have been involved in environmental conservation by erecting dykes since flooding has been a menace in the region.
The farm releases between six to 12 million tonnes of rice per month into the market under the brand name Prime Harvest. The stocks are found in parts of Nyanza, Wesern and the Rift valley. They also have an aquaculture programme, which can produce 10,000 tonnes of tilapia fish per annum. Abir says that as part of the conservation programme they have opted to restock Lake Kanyaboli which is the second largest Ox-bow Lake in Africa.
He says the primary aim is to ensure a constant supply of indigenous fish in the lake. The director says that irrigation water leaving the farm is now slowly filtering through thousands of acres of papyrus wetlands before making its way into Lake Victoria. There are plans to sell power to the national grid after the completion of the company’s hydroelectric generator built into the company’s dam on the Yala River.
The current dam will be raised in order to add to the fall power before the turbines are installed. Under the firm’s corporate social responsibility programme, the company has provided construction materials to a number of schools and clinics in the area and fresh water.
Abir says they contribute financially to special educational events and sports equipment has been furnished to schools throughout the area. Abir that they have been providing seeds, modern farming techniques to local farmers and contracts to purchase their crops. Apart from helping the local community the company is currently training 15 Nigerian students.
One of the student Mr George Odudua from Lagos says they have learnt a lot about land levelling and large scale farming during their stay at Dominion. Abir says two Kenyans from the farm are also in Nigeria training local people in land use. Dominion has had to fight off claims of using chemicals in its farm, with some residents holding demonstrations against it over allegations of unfair employment practices.
A conservationist in the area Mr Richard Otieno who is the honorary warden of Lake Kanyaboli National Reserve discounts a notion that the company uses chemicals. Otieno says that is not the case and is evidenced by the presence of birds such as pelicans, quelea, fish eagles, long tailed commorants, eggretes, jacarants among others.
He says these are water birds which, could not have been there if the company was using chemicals in its activities. He says the only chemicals used are fertilisers ,which are used everywhere. A local worker Tom Otieno censures local leaders for claiming that foreigners are employed there. He said that is not true since most workers there hail from Kadenge and Bondo areas.
A businesswoman from Nyando Benter Otieno says she has been buying rice from the farms since the prices are affordable hence huge profits at the end of the day. She says rice from the firm has better aroma, which customers like. Recently Siaya County leaders differed over a proposal to stop the activities of the Sh7 billion rice investment at the 6,900 hectares of land that had been leased to them by the defunct Bondo and Siaya County councils.
Speaking separately nominated MP Oburu Oginga and Siaya County Commissioner Joseph Kimiywi warned elected County leaders and villagers against attempts to frustrate the farm’s venture.Oburu and Kimiywi declared the government will protect the investor and told off a section of leaders from Siaya and Bondo who have vowed to kick out the investor. “Let us not fight the investor. Such a move will scare away potential investors who want to invest in the county ,” said Oburu. – By FREDRICK ODIERO