When faced with a call of nature, one needs to respond quickly to avoid any discomfort that might arise in the process.
However, this is not the case for Mwea rice farmers in Kirinyaga County who have to walk for over two kilometers to find a place to relieve themselves.
This is because there are no toilets in the rice fields.
Previously, the government had gazetted a total of over 30,000 acres of rice farm where 26,000 acres were meant for paddy production
The number of acreages has however increased over the years with the introduction of rice farming outside the initially gazetted area.
During the establishment of the Mwea irrigation scheme over 60 years during the colonial period, residents were concentrated in villages while no one was supposed to settle in the productive land.
That means, not even toilets were supposed to be constructed in the paddy fields.
“It is a policy that has been around since the inception of the irrigation scheme, that no structure should be erected in these farmers,” said Murimi Njagi, one of the farmers.
Farmers and laborers spend a better part of the day under the scorching sun either scaring the birds away from the fields or weeding.
“There are no toilets in these fields and, therefore in case you have to go for a long or short call you’ll have to help yourself in the farms or wait until you get home,” said Ann Wangeci, a rice farmer and businesswoman.
During the rice season, the fields are flooded with water from canals whose source is River Thiba as well as River Nyamindi.
For farmers to relieve themselves in the fields or canals is a health risk as this would result in an outbreak of various diseases like diarrhea which are fueled by poor sanitation.
“People around here do not take heavy breakfast especially when you are going to spend a better part of the day in the fields, otherwise you’ll have a tough one,” said Mary Wambui, a rice farmer within Tebere Ward.
The farmers are therefore urging both the county government as well as the National Irrigations Authority to come up with a program to mitigate the problem.
“If we cannot be allowed to construct toilets, then the government should introduce mobile toilets. But there is also a challenge of vandalism that would shoot down the program,” said Antony Muciimi.