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By Eric Omwombo 

Yala Swamp residents and traders finally have a reason to smile following the arrival of multi-billionaire rice investor Dr Govinda Chentala to Siaya County.

Dr Chentala’s visit comes five years after US rice investor Calvin Burgess exited bringing down the economic activities at the Swamp.

The residents led by Central Alego MCA David Ragen and Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Fredrick Omoro said the investor’s visit is timely.

“We welcome the investor in our land and would accord him necessary support for the rice project to thrive and transform the region’s economy,” said Ragen, adding “We have been waiting for such opportunities. We shall support initiatives that would retain them in case they settle on Siaya as a suitable place to invest,” said Ragen.

“We know how investment in rice can transform Siaya and will do our part to ensure investor works under a conducive atmosphere.”

Omoro further said that the County will help with setting up favourable legislation.
“We shall give necessary support including legislation that would enhance investors’ work,” said Omoro.

“We are also happy to hear that the investor will also introduce a variety of rice that survives in dry lands” he added.
The leaders spoke a few minutes after Governor James Orengo met the Indian delegation at his boardroom where the County leadership was treated to a rice production presentation that was being undertaken by experts from India.

Dr Chentalla says they are in Siaya to explore Siaya’s potentialities as feasibility studies already indicate that siaya is a destination of choice.

He added that they will be in Siaya for two days to assess grounds to establish its suitability for rice production.

“We have honoured the invitation of Governor Orengo. He was in India sometimes back and convinced us with facts and figures and that’s why we are here to ascertain with a view of reaching agreements that will see us invest in Siaya.”

So far 2,000 farmers are still practising rice production in Usonga but there is a potentiala  for total of 12,000 farmers to engage in rice production.

Orengo welcomed the investors saying their investment would be key in enhancing rice production in Siaya.

He added that the County had invested KES 60 million in the Siriwo rice project and encouraged his guests to go see for themselves.

Orengo said he was part of the Lake Region Economic Block of governors that went to woo investors in India.

“I was part of the delegation of LREB comprising of the tour of Governors including Stephen Sang of Nandi and Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok. The delegation’s forte is in Agriculture, particularly rice production. India produces 8-9 tons of rice per hectare whereas in Kenya we are down to 2-5 tons.
Orengo said at the end of the tour, they shall have a further discussion and a follow-up meeting that will translate the engagement into a practical activity on the ground.

Siaya and LREB counties have the biggest potential for rice production and would grow up to 60 per cent of the required rice in Kenya.

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