.Africa News Kenya Focus 

April 19 - 24, 2013


 Coastweek   Kenya

 HOME - click this banner to return to http://www.coastweek.com 






Highland wheat and maize
farmers dream of owning tractors

With heavy soils, sometimes with murram
particles, it becomes hard to plough using
hand tools such as jembes or hoes

SPECIAL REPORT BY XINHUA Correspondent Ejidiah Wangui

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- It has been another hectic period as farmers prepare their land for the planting season which commenced this month.

Very often during land preparation periods such as in early January or February, Kenyan farmers struggle to hire tractors to plough their land and get ready for the planting period which comes in mid-March to late April.

“With everyone seeking these services, it becomes disappointing to realize that ones land is not ready as scarcity of tractors becomes apparent. One has to wait over a long period to get a free tractor to prepare your land. With over 110 acres of land, manual land preparation is not a viable option,” laments George Njoroge, a maize farmer in Ol Kalou.

Njoroge like many farmer in the region rely on tractors to open up virgin land or even previously ploughed land for the planting season.

Most farmers in Laikipia, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Narok and Timau regions, where most of the maize, wheat and barley are grown have to rely on farm mechanization in almost all operations.

With heavy soils, sometimes with murram particles, it becomes hard to plough using hand tools such as jembes or hoes.

In Kenya, tractor hire services are offered by private persons - - enterprising business people investing in farm mechanization—by buying tractors with their accompanying appliances such as ploughs, harrows or planters.

While many of the private hands do offer effective service to farmers, complains abound on shoddy quality of ploughing or harrowing sometimes done by operators, some of whom have not had any training in land preparation.

Agricultural experts say that quality of work in sometimes compromised by the nature of the farm machines in private hands. Tractors in the country are quite expensive an out of reach of many farmers.

For instance, a new tractor from the manufacturer goes for 2.5 million to 3 million shillings. Used tractors, reconditioned ones, retail for 1.5 million shillings with ploughs going for 500,000 shillings and heavy duty harrows selling more expensively at 1.5 million shillings.

Combine harvesters are more exclusive at 25 million shillings, a figure many farmers are reluctant to part with as the machine is idle in most periods of the year. Regular breakages require frequent maintenance which increases the cost of owning and operating a tractor.

“Professionalism is lacking in many private tractors in the country. Many lack basic training in land preparation skills such as harrowing, ploughing or even spraying. It requires training in getting a smooth tilth fit for planting a certain crop such as maize or wheat,” says an agricultural engineer with the Agricultural Mechanization Services (AMS) in the Ministry of Agriculture.

With this realization, the government has through AMS been offering tractor hire services where a trained operator offers ploughing, harrowing and spraying service to interested farmers.

“We charge the market rates even though our trained operators provide better quality work to farmers. We also offer combine harvesters during the wheat or maize harvesting seasons across the country,” says the officer adding that large scale farmers have been their biggest market.

AMS charges 2,500 shillings per acre to open up virgin land, 2, 000 shillings to prepare old land for planting and 2,000 shillings for harrowing. For combine harvesters, an acre of wheat or maize is charged 1,200 shillings.

Erratic prices of diesel have affected the demand of these tractor hire services as hire fuel prices kept off prospective customers.

In the recent months however, prices of diesel have declined tremendously from a high of 110 shillings  per litre of diesel to a low of 97 shillings—making cost of agricultural production drop—making tractor hire services affordable to many farmers.

A Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report entitled “Farm Power and Mechanization in Sub-Saharan Africa” notes that it would not be economically viable for smallholder farmers having less than 5 hectares on land to use tractor services.

It also laments that while governments offered tractor hire services have never been very effective, they are now being hampered by poor funding from governments, allowing the private sector to continue their dominance in the sub-sector.

The reports adds that with the government offered services not viable, growth of the privately rented market for tractors and operators will continue to grow to fill the rising demand for such services as African agriculture continues to expand.


Remember: you read it first at coastweek.com !





Copyright © '96, '97, '98, '99, '00, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07, '08, '09, '10, '11, '12.
Coastweek Newspapers Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Comments and questions: