The mission of this Kenyan company is the production and sale of rice, other cereal grains and tilapia fish to the markets of Kenya and surrounding countries. Only three African countries have fewer acres of active cropland per capita than does Kenya. At less than one tenth of one acre of cropland per person, Kenya cannot hope to feed its citizens without greater allocation of productive land for commercial irrigated farming. At full production, the farm will help enable this country to reduce dependence on imported food, will serve as a demonstration of productive farming practices and will return a profit to Dominion. The company is committed to the enrichment of the local population through decent employment, out-grower contracting and the support of schools, clinics and emerging community initiatives.
In 2003 Dominion leased 17,050 contiguous acres of lowlands in the Nyanza Province of western Kenya. Situated near the eastern shore of Lake Victoria precisely at the equator, the farm is part of a land mass fed by the Yala River. The leasehold is being developed into an irrigated commercial farming operation – a process involving 80 miles of canals, a complex system of flood control dikes and the necessary infrastructure for the growing, drying, milling and storage of rice and other commodity grains.
Dominion has permanently relocated key construction, maintenance, agricultural and management personnel to Kenya and has shipped more than 500 tons of state-of-the-art construction and farming equipment from the U.S. and Brazil. While construction of paddies and canals will continue for years, early crops of rice, corn, soybeans and cotton have proven the commercial viability of the operation. Initial rice crops harvested in 2006 resulted in some of the highest yields per acre ever recorded. At the rate of two crop cycles per year, the farm is expected to produce 90,000 tons of rough rice per annum when completed – a major contributor to the food security and to the economy of Kenya.
Scheduled for construction in 2010 is an aquaculture operation capable of producing 10,000 tons of tilapia fish per annum. Using rice bran and soybeans from the farm, an on-site feed mill will produce 100% of the feed required for this large-scale fish operation. A processing plant at the farm will prepare fresh fillets for shipment to buyers in Kenya, the EU and elsewhere.
An important element of the farm is the demonstration of successful technologies to the agricultural community of Kenya – particularly with respect to irrigation practices. While agriculture accounts for 25% of the Gross National Product of Kenya and while over 70% of the population is actively engaged in farming, 95% of all cropland is dependent on rain-fed production. Farmers are under-invested in agricultural technologies and equipment. The Government of Kenya therefore encourages foreign investment in large-scale irrigation projects and in the attendant agro-based processing operations.
A unique feature of the farm is the unusual degree of integration among product lines and their by-products. In order to reduce reliance on chemical fertilizers, water from the aquaculture operation that is high in amonia will flow into rice paddies. Settling ponds rich in fecal matter will also be dredged and the natural fertilizers will be spread on crops as organic manure. Irrigation water leaving the farm will slowly filter through thousands of acres of papyrus wetlands before making its way into Lake Victoria. Rice bran and soy meal will be used as protein sources in fish feed and rice hulls will be burned to produce boiler heat for the feed mill and to dry grain following harvest. Electrical power will emanate from a hydroelectric generator built into the company’s dam on the Yala River at the south edge of the property. Rice straw is baled for the construction of housing and small buildings.
The social and economic progress of the local community is an important consideration in Dominion’s business and considerable improvements and activities have been implemented. The company has provided construction materials to a number of schools and clinics. Public water distribution lines have been extended to local neighborhoods and improvements for bathing and for the watering of cattle have been constructed along the new reservoir. Dominion contributes financially to special educational events and sports equipment has been furnished to schools throughout the area. Each year the company donates tons of rice to community governments for distribution to local citizens. Among the most promising activities for economic stimulation is Dominion’s out-grower program whereby the company provides seed and technological assistance to local farmers and contracts to purchase their crops. Other improvements benefiting local communities are the construction and maintenance of public roads, the recharging of nearby lakes with fresh water from the Yala River, improved fishing from new reservoirs and – perhaps most important – the creation of a market economy that relies on hard currency from dependable wages. Direct farm employment currently ranges from 300 to 700 people, dependent on construction and harvesting activities.