It was recently report on CNN’s Eco-Solutions that up to one third of the fresh water in the world is consumed by rice production. Whether this staggering figure is exactly accurate or not, it is apparent that rice production uses too much water for the kilocalories of energy it produces for human consumption. This, of course, does not include the much lower yielding rainfed production.
At the same time, East Africans are consuming rice at an increasing rate, from about 6% per annum in Tanzania to about 14% per annum in Kenya and Uganda. While Tanzania is marginally self-sufficient in rice production, Kenya, Uganda and the rest of Eastern imports the majority of the rice they consume. Kenya imports about 80% of its rice, per capita consumption is increasing, and yields are slowly decreasing in many areas of the country.
In 2016 and 2017, East Africa underwent a moderate to severe drought, and even irrigated rice production suffered dramatically. Rice schemes in Kirinyaga, Kisumu and other counties could not supply water to their farmers for up to 6 months. Because Tanzania and Uganda have mostly rainfed rice production, the result was diminished yields in many 0roduction areas due to lower total rainfall.
With this background, and the increasingly variable rainfall patterns due to climate change, it seems obvious that those involved in rice breeding and production need to pay increasing attention to water usage in rice production. Here are two facets to this, and this document intends to address both.